If your kids need helping remembering to be respectful with their words, take a look at these ideas:
- You've heard the reprimand "Hold your tongue!" Make your child do it — literally. Have her stick out her tongue and hold it between two fingers. This is an especially effective correction for public outbursts.
- My kids often lose the privilege of talking. I explain that being able to express yourself is a gift. If they abuse that privilege, either by hurting someone's feelings, speaking inappropriately, or just making needless noise, they cannot speak for a predetermined amount of time. This is especially painful if during that time they have something important to say. It underscores the privilege of speaking and makes them think more carefully about their words.
- My friend Becki tried a variation on this idea in the car. If things got too raucous or there was too much fussing between siblings, she would cry, "Noses on knees!" Her children then had to immediately touch their noses to their knees until she determined that they had learned their lesson. If your older child is arguing that a punishment is unfair, be willing to back down. But explain, "I will rescind the correction if you can show me in the Bible where what I required of you was out of line." This usually cuts off anymore argument, and even better, it yields a little Bible study.
- Thank goodness for "do-overs"! If someone has the grumpies, he is allowed one "do-over." He can take a deep breath, leave the area, re-enter, re-try, re-ask, or respond differently from the first time, and we can all pretend that the first one never happened.
- Do your children ever call for you from the other room and try to carry on a conversation through the walls? Mine do. I've finally learned to stop answering them. Not only that, but every time they yell from the other room, I count how many times it takes them to realize I'm not talking back before they finally come looking for me and engage in a face-to-face conversation in a normal tone of voice. Then, for each time they yelled, they must wait five minutes before they can ask me the question they were so impatient to ask from the other room.
- Haven has recently started this shrill, squealing thing. I'm sure she does it for dramatic effect, to emphasize some wrongdoing Tucker has committed. But Steve reached his caterwaul limit one day. Thankfully I had just received an e-mail from a mom who was having the same problem with her young daughter. She came up with a clever way to teach her daughter the importance of being considerate of other people's ears-she made her daughter wear her husband's earplugs during her favorite TV show. I think I'll try that!
- Our children need the freedom to express their feelings, but there's often a fine line between open communication and disrespect. As your kids get older and you perceive their need to tell you how they're feeling, give them the chance to do it respectfully, while you listen without interrupting. If they're too angry or frustrated to speak respectfully, tell them to write you a letter and say whatever is on their heart. The only requirement is that they reread the letter before giving it to you. The majority of the time, this exercise will help them vent their feelings, but they won't end up giving you the letter because they don't feel that strongly anymore.