What Are Your Kids Saying?

Have you listened to your children play lately? Or should I ask, have you listened to how your children play? Children can develop attitudes when they play that can readily be heard by anyone paying attention. When the noise level increases, Mom or Dad will typically say something like, “Settle down,” or “Say something nice or don’t say anything at all!”


How many times a day do you catch yourself saying (or thinking) these kinds of phrases? How many times do you have to repeat yourself before your children comply?  Why do your children have the freedom to talk in unkind ways? Do your children do and say what they want until they have pushed you over the edge and you get on them? Correcting them when it gets to this point is not training your children. Working with them in a structured time of no conflict is.


What do we mean by this? To train your children is to teach them how God wants them to live. Like teachers in schools, parents need to have a plan (a structured time) to accomplish this. What does a plan look like?


First, since training your kids in moral values is based on how God wants us to live, you will need to know what Scripture has to say about the topic. What does the Bible say about unkind speech? Ephesians 4:29 says:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,

but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,

that it may benefit those who listen.”


Don’t assume kids understand words in verses. Ask them what ‘unwholesome’ talk is and don’t be surprised when they don’t know. Have a dictionary handy and look it up together. It means, “morally corrupt.” Make sure your kids know what those words mean. Then talk about what kinds of words God would consider morally corrupt.  It certainly would be bad words. We don’t necessarily mean vulgar language. ‘Bad words’ could be phrases like “shut up” or “You’re stupid.” These are not moral words because they do not build people up, they tear them down.


Do your kids know what building someone up looks like? Role play with them how to encourage their siblings with words. This verse says we are to build others up according to their needs, not our own needs. Children (and adults) often build others up to benefit themselves, not the other person. Role play what this would look like. Children need to have a picture in their mind of what something looks like before they can absorb the concept being presented. Another way you can demonstrate this would be to share with them how kindly you speak to your spouse even when you don’t like what he/she is saying.


The last part of the verse tells us when we do this, it benefits (influences) those who are listening. Tell your children that when they encourage someone to build them up for that person’s benefit, they can influence others in the room for good.


When teaching kids what the Bible says about how to live their lives, break down the verse piece by piece as we just did, and don’t leave any part out!  Of course this is age-appropriate. You can’t teach young children what they do not have the moral capacity to understand.


So what do you do when ‘unwholesome’ talk comes out of your kid’s mouth?  Have a place in your house where your child can go when you tell him (or her) to go sit. This place needs to be out of the flow of traffic. Tell him to go sit and think about what he could say instead that would build the person up he was speaking to. The child can’t get off the chair until he has thought of something positive to say and is willing to apologize and make it right with the one he offended. Always try to find a way to direct your child to the ‘good’ you want to see from him.


I remember one day when our son Michael was in the 3rd grade I asked him how school was that day. When he told me about the football game he was playing in at lunch recess, he said, “We kicked their *&#*# all over the field.” Instead of getting upset and mad at him for using a word that was definitely unwholesome, I told him it was a word that was unacceptable to use which is why he had never heard his Mom or I use it, and I asked him not to use it again. When he asked me why we didn’t say this word, I told him it talked about body parts that are not acceptable to speak about in public.  Because of the trusting relationship we had, he agreed.


Did he fully understand what I was saying? Probably not. If you wait until your children understand what you are training them to do and say before you require them to do it, what barometer will control their speech and behavior until you are sure they do? You can require them to do something before they understand the ‘why’ of what you are telling them to do. This is called “actions precede belief,” and is why parents bother to teach their toddlers to say ‘please’. When children finally understand what a courtesy is, they will be in the habit of saying it.


There is one more thing in this verse that is worth pointing out. Paul said “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth…” The key word is “let.” We need to help our children learn how to control what comes out of their mouths and what doesn’t. What we say is a choice! Teach your children what they can do instead of saying things that are unkind.


How wholesome is your speech? Is this something that you need to work on to show your children how to be kind when you talk, especially when you are angry? Remember more of your parenting is caught through example than taught!



Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,

but only what is helpful for building others up

according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Ephesians 4:29