Out of the mouths of babes come some of the purest and most innocent observations. Children can often be a timely reminder of reality and our priorities. They see the smallest details from a whole new perspective. Their reflections, and even sometimes their wisdom, can be surprising and often humorous. They have an often insatiable curiosity that drives them to explore, and ponder new situations and people. But their sometimes eye-opening conclusions aren’t always good.
Sometimes their words can be hurtful to others, and sometimes these things just don’t need to be said. So how do we teach our kids how to properly filter their tongues?
Case in point. My now nine year old son, John David, was four. He was very excited about a solo trip with Mommy to the dollar store, a rare occurrence with three siblings in the house. I had promised him a special treat if he behaved, so as we gathered the few things on my list, he was on his best behavior. John David has always been a friendly child, smiling at fellow shoppers. This particular shopping trip, there was one elderly lady in the store that was taking notice of him. As we made our way to the checkout, she fell in line behind us.
The woman was very sweet, and proceeded to compliment John David on his fantastic behavior. She went on and on about how he was such a good boy. As she spoke to him, I could see the wheels turning in John David’s mind, but nothing prepared me for what came next.
“Why do you have a mustache?”
Did those words just come out of my child’s mouth?! I was mortified. Thankfully, the poor woman was very hard of hearing, and looked at me with a confused look on her face as she asked, “What did he say?” I don’t remember exactly what I said in reply, but I lied. I was so humiliated that I couldn’t bare to tell her the truth. I made something up that sounded sweet, but then my ever honest four year old started to protest.
“That’s not what I said, I said…”
That was all I could take. My hand went over his mouth, as I smiled sweetly at the woman, thanking her for her compliment, and shuffling my son farther up in line away from her quizzical looks. God must have been looking down on this poor momma, because at that moment is was our turn to checkout, and we were quickly on our way out to the parking lot. Needless to say this incident sparked some serious conversation on the ride home.
Children don’t think before they speak. This is a skill that takes time and maturity to attain. But as parents, we can help them along their journey and teach our little ones to filter their thoughts and words, letting only appropriate and helpful observation through.
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
We have tried to teach our children that before they speak, especially in a highly emotional situation, to ask themselves this question: Are my words kind, necessary, and true? It’s something I read in a devotion long ago, and the words have always stuck with me. Is what I’m about to say kind? Is what I’m about to say necessary? That one in particular is the hardest for children to learn in my opinion. And finally, is what I’m about to say truthful?
We can look to the Bible for several talking points when teaching our children about the power of their words. There are many fantastic verses in Proverbs about not only the power of the tongue, but learning how to control it and the importance of that skill. Study these scripture with your child, and even memorize a few. Memorizing scripture is an outstanding way to help children retain lessons of character. Next time they go to speak, they’ll think of that scripture, what it means, and hopefully they utilize the skill they’ve learned.
You can also utilize children’s DVDs and books with this character lesson in mind. For young girls, check out Sheila Walsh’s How To Be God’s Little Princess. It’s an etiquette book just for girls that covers this topic, and many more! Utilizing entertaining items that include a strong moral lesson can really get your child’s attention. Tommy Nelson has several videos and books that would work well for this topic.
Learning to filter our thoughts is a skill even some adults haven’t mastered, so be patient with your children. Lead by example, and they will eventually learn to speak truth and kindness to others.
How do you encourage your children to think before they speak? Do you have any specific materials or verses that have helped?
Angie Knutson: Angie is a Christian freelance writer and homeschooling mom of four active children ranging in age from 5 to 13. She’s been married to her husband, Jeremy, for fifteen years as they’ve learned to live God’s way, and grown together in His love. Angie has recently left the world of diaper bags and babies, and is cautiously approaching life with teens. She blogs about faith and family at www.AngieKnutson.com
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