Parenting can be tough. Christian Parenting is tougher still, as you try to parent against many cultural norms. Why make it any harder than it needs to be? Sometimes the very words you choose to use can escalate an already tense situation unnecessarily.
There are words that will cause an immediate, strong negative reaction in your kids. You’ve probably noticed certain words they use have the same impact on you. Some words will cause a strong negative emotion in almost everyone, like “hate”. Other words will differ from person to person.
Whether we realize it or not, our brains have noticed which words create a strong reaction in others. When we get angry or upset at someone, our brains seem to choose those words on purpose to cause as much pain as possible. (For our purposes, we will call these hot button words.)
Except, the truth is we make conscious decisions about the words we use. It’s just that it happens so quickly we aren’t always as aware as we should be of what is about to come out of our mouths. We become angry at our child’s disobedience and in addition to correcting and giving consequences, we inflict unnecessary emotional pain by using hot button words as we talk to them.
Using hot button words in parenting immediately worsens any conflict. Because of their limited self control, young children may even have what seems like extreme emotional and behavioral reactions when you use their hot button words – especially in tense situations like correction.
If you aren’t careful, instead of changing a child’s behavior, you are creating an emotional divide that will become more difficult to heal over time. You can be firm and even give consequences without using those hot button words.
Some hot button words should be obvious. It is never acceptable to call children ugly names or curse at them. Any descriptive words should be about the behavior and not implying they define a child’s character. A decision is bad, for example, a child is not a bad child. (Defining a child, rather than the choice, can lead them to believing they will only make bad choices and are unredeemable.)
When things are calm, have a conversation with each of your kids about words and phrases that cause a strong reaction in them. Some will be silly, like “moist”. Others will be those words you need to avoid when possible as you talk with your child. You may even want to share some words you would prefer they not use when they are upset with you.
There can also be household bans on certain words. In our home, “hate” was never to be used in reference to a person…especially if it were in the sentence “I hate you!” Although, we knew we loved each other, we believed it was important to never utter those words to one another – even in anger. Your family may want to work together to make a list of banned words and phrases in your home.
If you or your kids have gotten in the bad habit of using hot button words when angry, you may have to have some sort of consequence to help everyone break bad habits. It’s important to be consistent and allow your kids to give you the same consequence if they catch you using hot button words, too.
If you have been in the habit of using hot button words and phrases when correcting your children, you may find eliminating them will lessen the intensity of many conflicts. You probably sound more rational to your children when you avoid using the words that annoy them and they will quite possibly stay a little calmer in the process. Even if they still get upset, it’s great parenting to avoid calling anyone ugly names or using curse words to emphasize your point when talking to your children. Plus it sets a wonderful, godly example for them to follow in their own speech.