Teaching Children to Tame Their Tongues

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Children's minister Cindy Leach offers solutions to lying, foul language, and disrespect.

This article is courtesy of ParentLife.

“May the words of my mouth…be acceptable to You” (Psalm 19:14)

If you have children, you probably have given them the warning, “Stop saying that!” Did you know that God’s Word teaches that the tongue is something to be tamed? James 3:8 says, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” It is true that such a tiny little body part has great power. So how do you teach your child to keep his tongue under control? Here is some help for three big tongue problems.

Problem 1: Lying
When a child feels backed into a corner, what will he do? Tell a lie. Lying is a normal childhood problem. You want your child to use his imagination and be creative, but lying should never be acceptable. So how do you tell the difference between a vivid imagination and telling a lie? Look at what motivated your child. Is he using his imagination in play or being silly? Children who tell lies have a different motive. Some motives include avoiding punishment, impressing others, for shock value, or to hurt someone.

Solution: Do not let lying get a foothold in your child’s life. When your child succeeds with a small lie, he is likely to try lying about bigger things. Start early by emphasizing daily the importance of telling the truth. When you catch your child in a lie, ask: “Why did you feel you needed to tell a lie?” Listen to discover what motivated your child to lie.

Explain to your child that lying is never acceptable. Teach him Colossians 3:9, “Do not lie to one another.” Be sure the punishment you give is age appropriate. Help your child understand that privileges must be earned by being truthful.
 
Problem 2: Foul Language
Children quickly learn that some words are “good” and other words are “bad.” Using foul language and curse words can make a child feel grown-up and empowered. When your child watches a friend get a good reaction after telling a dirty joke, he might be tempted to try it himself. Most children who use bad words are seeking approval from their friends or trying to shock people around them. Many times, a young child may not even understand what certain words or phrases really mean.  

Solution: Do not use any word that you would not want your child to repeat. Remember, your child will follow your example. He is listening. Also monitor what your child watches, listens to, and reads. Do the movies or music you allow your child to watch or listen to contain language you do not want him to use? Do not allow them. Widen your child’s vocabulary by teaching some fun, appropriate words he can use to shock and amaze his friends. 

An Appropriate Response
When you hear your child use an obscene word, do not panic. Calmly ask: “Where did you hear that word? Do you know what it means?” Give your child a chance to respond and listen carefully to her answer. Explain that foul language is offensive to others and does not honor God. Ephesians 5:4 commands, “And coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable.” Help your child understand that the words she uses are a reflection of what is in her heart and should be pleasing to God. If necessary, explain the meaning of the word or phrase in an age-appropriate way. For example you might say something such as: “That word is offensive and describes in a bad way a good thing that God made especially for husbands and wives.”
 
Problem 3: Disrespectful Attitude
Respect for authority is a big problem for many of today’s children. Today’s selfish culture causes children to think they should always get their way and treat others, including their parents, in a disrespectful way. Many children whine or throw tantrums to get what they want – and often parents give in. Treating others disrespectfully is a symptom of a much deeper problem with selfishness. 

Solution: Set a positive example by treating others, including your child, with respect in all circumstances. How do you talk to your spouse about your unfair boss after a hard day at work? What did you say about the driver who cut you off in traffic? Remember, your child will model what he sees and hears from you.

Start teaching respectful language and manners at an early age. A sassy attitude that seems cute for your toddler will be a nightmare to change later. Do not allow your child to speak to you or anyone else in a disrespectful way. Expect your child to use polite manners, speak in a calm tone, and use words that reflect his respect for another’s feelings. Praise him for using his words well.

Do not give in to your child’s begging or tantrums. Ignore your child when he whines to get your attention. Only respond to requests that are presented in a polite, respectful way. Children are more likely to use a disrespectful tone when they are hungry, tired, or angry. So help your child get enough rest, provide a balanced diet, and teach him to resolve conflict appropriately in order to prevent potential attitude problems. 
 
Time and Patience
Do not expect your child to master control of his tongue overnight. Pray and ask God to help you teach your child to tame his tongue. Be sure to praise your child when he tells the truth, refrains from using foul language, and speaks to others with respect. With consistency and perseverance, the tongue that roars like a beast can someday purr like a kitten!
 
Taming Tips
Teach your child to monitor what she says by remembering these simple rules.

  • Think before you speak. Words blurted out can never be taken back.
  • Be respectful. Always treat others with kindness and avoid whining. 
  • Speak with purity. Refrain from using vulgar or profane words.
  • Tell the truth. Help your child understand that telling lies or half-truths, sharing gossip, or making up stories is not acceptable. 
  • Please God. What would God think of what you have to say?

Cindy Leach is the minister to children at North Richland Hills Baptist Church in North Richland Hills, Texas. She and her husband, Jason, have two daughters in middle school.

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