By Joey and Carla Link
March 23, 2022
Trash talk. It’s another way of saying “swearing”, or “talking like a sailor”, or “foul language” and the list goes on and on. When we were growing up, even though we lived hundreds of miles apart, we both got in trouble for saying “golly” and “gosh darn” because that was considered to be using God’s name in vain. Can you even imagine how we went from “golly” to the language that is a common part of society today?
We were at a community event last summer where the music blaring out from the loud speakers was foul. It was promoted as a family event!
When your kids first say an inappropriate word, what is your reaction? Do you yell at them, telling them under no circumstances that they are to talk that way again? Before you react, ask yourself:
What words are they hearing from their friends?
From your choices in entertainment?
From too much freedom with television shows they are allowed to watch or stuff they are exposed to on the computer?
Are they able to distingue between right and wrong language?
When they hear a foul word, do they know what it means?
Do they know/think it is foul?
We aren’t just talking about pre-teens and teens here. Preschoolers talk this way because their parents do. Jesus own brother, James said it clearly,
“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:10
What is right and wrong language for your kids?
I (Joey) remember walking to the park with my then 6-year-old son and he told me a joke he heard at the public school he attended. I asked him if he knew what the one word I was surprised to hear meant, and he said he didn’t. When I told him, he quickly said he wouldn’t tell that joke again.
Paul gives parents clear definition in Ephesians 4:29 of what is right and wrong language.
“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.”
What words, language and kind of talk are you allowing your kids to use:
in your home
with their friends
in text, emails
on social media
I had a parent check their teens phone recently because they were having issues with the kid’s attitude. They were horrified at the words and language their teen’s fingers were texting to a friend. It’s like Solomon said in Proverbs 23:7,
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
You will know what your kids are thinking about when you pay attention to what is coming out of their heart through their mouths.
How Can Parents Harness Their Child’s Inappropriate Words?
With young kids (7 yrs. and younger) stop them from saying it with your authority. Be calm and steady – just explain you don’t use that word in your family like you don’t allow them to say “shut up” or “stupid”. They don’t need long explanations or a lot of detail. Keep it simple.
Know what your kid’s friends talk about and what kinds of words they use. You can say, “We don’t use that word in our family so please don’t use it around our kids or in our home.”
Help your kids choose appropriate friends and invite their families to spend time with your family. Don’t assume because peers of your kids go to church their family has the same standards yours does.
If your child asks what is wrong with a word you have told him not to use tell him, unless it is inappropriate for his age. When our kids asked us these type of questions over the years, we usually asked them: Why exactly do you want to know? You already know the word is wrong to use so what else do you need to know?
Parents need to model what words to use and what words not to use by not saying the inappropriate ones yourselves. If it isn’t okay for your child to use, then it isn’t okay for you to use.
In the same way, parents need to give kids different words to use to replace what their peers use. Encourage them to be creative like “Oh Jelly snaps!”
Ultimately for a child to choose note to use words he/she hears from friends and peers, they need to believe the word is right or wrong in the context it is being used in. Therefore, if a child wants to persist in using words you believe are wrong for your family:
You need to be prepared to teach them why you believe the words or phrases are wrong
Give them grace in removing it from their vocabulary as it likely has become a habit
Help them replace it with other words that can make the same point
Our oldest daughter was on the bus going to a band competition when she was 13 years old. After listening to them talk for a while she stood up, put her hands on her hips and said, “Do you know what that word means? Any of you? It means “poop”. Why you think it is cool to say “poop” all the time when talking to each other is beyond me. I think it is disgusting and you should too! Next time you want to use that word go to the bathroom where it belongs because some of us here don’t want to hear it!”
Christianity is being mocked as the norm in our society today for the first time ever in our country’s history. When others know you are believers, they are watching to see what is different about being a Christian from the way they live their own lives. We can all be flickering flames that will burst into a bonfire if we just clean up our mouths and don’t allow “unwholesome trash talk” in our families.
“The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of sense.”