By Joey & Carla Link
October 4, 2023
We want our kids to speak kindly to others. We want them to use their words to encourage others. We would all like this to come naturally, but it doesn’t. You get to teach them how to use their words for good.
There is a great verse in the Bible about our words. You can find it in Ephesians 4:29 which 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 they read in verses. Ask them what “unwholesome” talk is and don’t be surprised when they don’t know. Have a dictionary/phone handy and look it up together. It means, “morally corrupt.” That’s not particularly helpful if your kids don’t know what those words mean either. So, look them up too. Talk about what kinds of words God would consider morally corrupt. We don’t just mean vulgar language. “Bad words” could be phrases like “shut up”, “You’re stupid” or “You idiot”! These are not moral words because they do not build people up, they tear them down. Tone, especially if you have a child with the Choleric temperament is hurtful too even if the words in and of themselves, aren’t.
Do your kids know what building someone up looks like? Role play with them how to encourage their siblings, grandparents and others 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 put it into action.
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 by building him/her up for that person’s benefit, they can influence others in the room for good. Talk about what this looks like in different situations. Saying “hi” to older people at church for example, builds them up because they are pleased your kids noticed them.
When teaching kids what the Bible says about how to live their lives, break down verses you read to them 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 or ability to understand.
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/kind 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 children to the “good” you want to see from them.
I(Joey) remember one day when our son was in the 3rd grade, I asked him how school was that day. When he told me about the football game he had played 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.
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.
“From a wise man comes wise speech.
Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”