We can look back at our lives and remember comments from a parent, mentor or teacher that changed us forever. It effected our self-worth, the decisions we made and the confidence we had to try new things.
And then there are the words from our peers that we also will never forget. Some of the comments I remember clearly are from girls in my class when they made fun of the way my clothes fit, or how the boys made inappropriate jokes about my virginity because I was a Christian (yes, even at thirteen, people thought I was a prude). All of a sudden, I would feel insecure about the way I looked or the things that I said. I became quieter, more self-conscious and afraid to be myself in case I would get laughed at.
The United States Government did a survey on bullying with kids ages 12-18 and the top two types of bullying were related to the use of our words: being the subject of rumors and lies and being made fun of or insulted. I’ve heard the horror stories of internet bullying today, and I can’t even begin to fathom the impact of social media comments wrecking the sweet souls of our children. I think kids often say things without giving it much thought, not knowing the full, forever impact their words may have. Dissociating themselves from the real person on the other side of the screen they are attacking with their thoughtless words.
As parents or caregivers, we have a responsibility to tell our kids about the weight of their words. Words are serious, heavy and can easily crush someone’s spirit . Proverbs 18:21 says “death and life are in the power of the tongue…” and kids need to know the gravity of the words they use.
We all know words change hearts and minds, so ask your kids: “do you want to be the kind of person who plants seeds in the lives of your friends that encourage, inspire and help them grow? Or do you want to plant seeds that create roots of insecurity, sadness and anger? Either way, once these seeds have taken root, they are hard to pull up. They are hard to rewrite. Words are like super glue and they will stick for a long time.”
Let’s not waste another moment and help our kids practice meaningful, encouraging words today!
We can model positive words by encouraging our kids.
Kids truly soak in what we tell them. I like to take note of the good work my son does and tell him often and because he has seen it modeled to him, he does the same for me. I decorated the house for Valentine’s Day and when my son saw the streamers and balloons he said, “Mom, your decorations look really good. You are a really good mom.” He is four! I was floored at his kind words. Even a toddler boosted my self-esteem and made me feel good with his comments!
We can use God’s truth, His Word, to help them understand their self-worth and value.
If your kiddo has trouble saying kind things, it’s time for a heart check. There may be something deeper going on. When we share how God sees them—worthy, valued and loved—I believe it transforms hearts. And a heart that feels loved, secure and safe is better at making someone else feel loved.
Practice using thoughtful words.
One way you can do this is practice note-writing (I have a fun coloring sheet for your kids that you can download for free). Have your kids draw a picture or write a note, telling their friend why they like being their friend. Can you imagine what an impact that would make? We can also teach them self-control over their words. I like that the Psalmist uses imagery that I think can helps kids remember to be watchful over their words: Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips (Ps. 141:3)! When we have self-discipline over carelessly saying hurtful things, we keep ourselves from trouble and keep friends from unnecessary hurt.
Teach them that their words reveal their character.
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). The words your child uses will reveal their real true character. You can ask your kids to think about what person they will become if they use mean, insensitive words with their friends. Do they want to be known as someone who is judgmental, unkind and rude or as someone who is encouraging, welcoming and a team-player?
And as our kids come home after mean words were flung at them, hug them close.
Remind them who loves them and who created them.
Our restless thoughts, replaying scenes of hurt and disappointment over and over, can be our worst enemy! Train your kids to take every thought and make it obedient to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). Destroy the moment the enemy can have to tell your child they are who the kids on the playground say they are. They are not helpless because they have tools to combat the negative words: prayer, Scripture memorization and discernment. No matter what age, graciously and patiently guide your kids to replace mean words with true words. Help them take their concerns, fear and hurts to God in prayer. And help them discern who is a true friend and who is not.
Words land straight on the heart. And the heart is where life starts (see Prov. 4:23).
We can train our kids to protect their heart.
We can train our kids to protect the hearts of their friends.
We can model a life that finds its identity in Jesus; secure and loved.
We can model words that flow from a life knowing we are loved by God—gracious words like honeycombs “sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24) of everyone we meet.
How do you feel after a friend says something mean to you? What about when a friend says something nice?
How does it feel knowing God likes you? How can you tell others this good news?
How can we practice using our words to build up our friends?
Why do you think it would “give grace” to those who hear your kind words?
Fun-Size Friendships Coloring Sheets
Subscribers of my Newsletter can download four Fun-Size Friendships coloring pages for their kiddos. These coloring pages are a fun collaboration between myself and Mary Clarke Photo & Design. No judgement if you print two copies of each so that you can do one…