Spending a large quantity of time together as a family is a wonderful thing. We love the chance to develop relationships and make memories together.
Conversely, we have a lot of time to get on each others’ nerves too! And say hurtful things to each other. In all of this, there are learning opportunities and the sweet chance to make reconciliation and restore relationships.
But, I sure feel like I have to talk to my kids a lot about guarding their mouths and saying things to their siblings that build them up, instead of tearing them down.
And in my most honest moments, I have to repent, myself, after saying unkind and unhelpful things.
Living alongside each other, in close proximity, we can always find the bad things immediately and easily focus on those things. Words can get negative really quickly. There are bickering, unhealthy comparisons, blaming, and words that are cutting and unkind.
The tongue is an unruly evil.
Whenever my kids say mean things, I try to get them to immediately apologize, and I require them to come up with kind things to say about their sibling instead.
A few weeks ago, my son said two mean things to his sister in succession. It was terrible. We talked about what kind things he could say to her, after he had apologized.
Of course, he couldn’t come up with anything. So, we went through a list of character qualities I found online. We were nearing the end of the list, and he still couldn’t think of anything good about his sister. I told him he would need to think of something soon, or else we would have to start at the top of the list and read the qualities all over again, from the beginning. He quickly decided that she is “thrifty.” I agreed that, yes, she is very frugal and shows thriftiness. He also decided that she is “understanding.” I couldn’t as readily come up with examples of that in her life, but I decided to let him roll with it. So, he complimented her on these things.
Maybe this is just going through the motions, and I’m sure my five-year-old son was not very sincere, but at least it gives an opportunity to turn something negative into a more positive interaction!
While hurtful words can destroy, pleasant words are life-giving and restorative.
It’s also good to be proactive in teaching kids to use a filter and guard their words, before they leave their mouths.
We can use the acronym T.H.I.N.K. to help us think, in advance, about the impact of our words, and whether they are appropriate.
Before we speak, we need to T.H.I.N.K. We need to ask:
- T – Is what I’m saying True?
- H – Is it Helpful?
- I – Is it Inspiring?
- N – Is it Necessary?
- K – Is it Kind?
If our words are not all of these things, we should not say those words.
If your kids are like mine, they often feel justified in saying things just because they are true. But it takes wisdom to realize that not all “true” things should be said, especially when they are not helpful or kind.
In our house, we also talk about how it is easier to be nice to people you don’t live with than to your own family. It is much more difficult to be kind, and to be a safe person, to family members who are with us constantly, with all of our faults continually on display.
I want my kids to be able to rely on each other, and be safe places for each other, in this harsh and critical world.
The home is where we should show unconditional love and encouragement to each other, more than any other place.
We often fail, here at our house, but this is the goal we remind each other of, and we constantly strive for.
“Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul.” – Proverbs 16:24
Photo Credit: iStock. Following image courtesy of author.