When Kids are Tearing Down
Joey & Carla Link
August 22, 2018
We enjoy getting together with parents who are seeking help with their kids. We recently had dinner with a couple who have 3 boys who, like most boys are hitting each other and picking on each other, wrestling around until someone gets hurt either physically or emotionally. Like most parents, this mom and dad tried everything they could think of, including giving them physical things to do like running around the outside of the house, push-ups and sit-ups to get their energy out. But a few hours or a day later they ended up doing the same thing again, and again, and again.
The primary issue here is how they use their words with each other, for hurtful, angry words lead to lashing out physically. First I recommended they have a teaching time with the kids using Ephesians 4:29:
“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.”
It’s easy to read this verse and think of not using bad language like swearing. But bad language is also when words are used to hurt each other. “…but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I encouraged the parents to have their boys each read the verse out loud and then have them explain what it means.
- Teach your kids their words leave wounds that do not always heal.These parents talked about the words their boys used that often hurt each other’s feelings. Words can act like a knife and cut into an open wound which really hurts, but boys especially are afraid to show that it does. They stow these words away in their hearts and the wounds do not heal and when they are opened again and again with harsh words eventually the recipient will lash out, his hurt showing in anger.
I recommended they present a fun teaching time by going and getting some straws and peas. When I was a kid we could buy pea shooters where we would put these little peas in our mouths and had extra wide straws and used them to shoot/spit peas through the straw at targets but we ended up shooting at each other. Those little peas could really hurt. I recommended they get some pea shooters and give them to the younger boys and let them shoot at the older one. It’s amazing how much power you can have from 3-4 feet away.
The goal is to demonstrate how much a word or phrase can hurt coming out of someone’s mouth like the peas out of the shooter. Once it is out of a kid’s mouth, the sting is left and the words can’t be taken away. It doesn’t “build others up according to their needs.” I encouraged the parents to point out the words coming out of their mouths need to build a wall of encouragementto those they are speaking to.
- Teach your kids their words need to benefit others. “That it may benefitthose who listen,” is the last part of this verse that is often overlooked. In talking to this family, we discussed with them ways they could get their boys to understand their words needed to “benefit” their brothers. Making sure hurtful or angry words don’t come out of your mouth is one thing. Making sure the words you do choose to say benefitthose you are speaking to is quite another. To benefitsomething is to give them a gift for profit, which is to say “so they gain something.”
To speak words that you know will benefit others, especially your siblings means you have to teach your kids how to think about what they say before they say it. Have them ask themselves, “How is this going to benefit her/him and build them up?”
That is exactly what Hebrews 10:24 means when it says,
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds.”
- Teach your kids that “boyswillcan be boys”.Personally I (Joey) like to play sports and any game can produce a lot of jeering and teasing. Much of it is part of the game and kids need to learn how to handle that as they will have it all their lives. But when it gets personal and out of hand, parents need to teach their kids to be aware when the teasing has gone too far and it’s become malicious instead of fun. Kids should be encouraged to stand up for the wronged person just like Pee Wee Reese did in the movie “42”.
Reese, a white boy from Kentucky who was an outstanding baseball player was on the same team as Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in baseball. When their team was playing a game in Reese’s hometown and the crowd was jeering Robinson and calling him terrible names, Pee Wee Reese realized how wrong this was and walked over from the shortstop position to first base and put his arm around Jackie Robinson and stood there eyeing the crowd. Soon you could hear a pin drop in the entire ball park. Pee Wee Reese decided he needed to take a stand and though risky in those days, his actions shouted to the large crowd that the color of a man’s skin should not make him ineligible to play the game he was very good at.
Do your kids know when to stop teasing others and when to step in and spur others on to love and good deeds? If not, help them learn this by practicing on their siblings to help them build up the courage to look for ways they could do it with their friends.
- Show your kids how words can both build others up and benefit them as well by the words they hear coming from your mouths.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14 (ESV)