One of the most exciting times while raising children is when your little ones begin to speak. The cute way they mangle words and the glimpses into their minds and personalities is a joyful experience. As they begin to master speech, sometimes what comes out of those little mouths are things we would rather not hear. Especially from a child we were given by God to point towards Him.
Often parents focus on grammar and keeping their child from cursing. Some parents will even work diligently to keep their children from speaking disrespectfully to those in authority. What other bad speech habits do we ignore? Are we allowing children to reveal heart problems with their speech and then leaving them uncorrected? Will ignoring these issues make them disappear or cause them to grow worse over time?
The topic of speech and children could cover many posts. Today I just want to discuss some heart issues your children could be revealing by their speech. If you hear your child speak like this regularly, you need to probably address not just what is being said, but the possible heart problems behind them.
- Gossip- Any story that starts out with “So and so thinks so and so did such and such because a third or fourth so and so thinks this or that” is more than likely gossip. It gets confusing because in our world what used to be gossip is now passed off by even legitimate nightly news programs as news. There is a difference though. News is an event that happened and is public knowledge. A news story has been shared by the people involved who are willing to let others know what happened. Gossip tends to be speculative in nature and usually puts one or more people in a very negative light. God tells us multiple times gossip is a sin. Train your kids that anything they would not want someone to say about them or anything that they do not absolutely know is true and the person wants it to be shared is probably better left unsaid.
- Criticism – This is another fine line to explain to your kids. Our children need to have a discerning spirit. They need to be honest when people ask if they are learning from their classes or if they understood what was taught. They need to improve their skills and often they must have a critical eye in order to know what to improve. Some criticism though, is just mean and unloving. Your child does not need to tell someone she thinks a friend’s new dress is ugly – especially when her opinion wasn’t sought. I heard an example yesterday when teens serving another group told the group they smelled bad. Really? Teach your children criticizing that humiliates others is not reflecting God’s love. (Note: Helping someone address the sin in their life is another topic for another day.)
- Belittling – When your child mocks or puts down others – even under the guise of humor – his speech is possibly reflecting a heart that does not value others or is prideful. Belittling others implies your child places his choices, gifts and decisions above the ones of the person he is mocking. God is quite clear He doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t expect us to either. Teach your children there is nothing loving about putting down others, nor is it funny.
- Bullying – Using hateful, mean or angry speech to force another to do what you want is bullying. Once again it can reflect a heart that is unloving, prideful and selfish. It’s interesting how our culture has stepped up and begun to hold people somewhat accountable for bullying others, yet often siblings are allowed to use the same sort of tactics with each other. Sibling rivalry is not an excuse for allowing your children to bully each other.
- Manipulating – Feel free to throw in whining and wheedling to this category. Do your children regularly use their speech in ways that don’t seem ugly or ungodly, yet are insincere and said in an effort to convince others to let them have their way? Manipulative children are often very bright and cunning. If not caught, a child who is allowed to use speech to manipulate others can become a person who wraps their life in lies, tricks and a host of other ungodly behaviors.
- Lying – There are many ways to lie and most of them are regularly ignored by society. Ironically, God calls out lying multiple times as one of the sins that angers him the most. Make sure your children understand half-truths, withheld information, little white lies, etc. are all still lies in the eyes of God.
- Negative talk – It stands to reason if God expects us to encourage each other and wants us to think on things that are good and pure and lovely, He probably is not a fan of speech that is constantly negative. If your child is constantly focused on the negative aspects of life, please check with your pediatrician and make sure there isn’t an underlying issue with depression. If your child is healthy, it could be a sign of an ungrateful heart. Help your child learn to look for the blessings in life and not focus on only the negative things that happen.
In my next post, I will share with you some positive types of speech you should be encouraging your child to develop. In the meantime, discuss this list with your kids, including the more common ones of cursing and disrespect. With which ones do they already know they struggle? Which ones do you need to work on yourself? Focusing on your speech as a family may help all of you practice more godly speech.