By Contributing Writer, Lisa Burns.
There are so many times when I feel like I am clueless as a parent. Of course, this started from the very beginning when we first brought our baby home from the hospital. So many decisions to make, and many of them while at least one of you is crying.
You learn as you go, and one of the most important things you learn about babies is that they are all different. You must find what works for them, as individuals.
But (and I hate to burst anyone’s bubble here), just because your kids get bigger doesn’t mean you will increasingly feel less clueless.
Instead of figuring out how to solve the riddle of the perfect sleep routine, you will be puzzled about how to help them grow into people who are pleasant to be around, and most importantly, how to shepherd them into loving God and others well.
This is the stage of parenting we are entering into right now. Our older kids are less likely to draw on the walls or throw a tantrum at the store. But they are increasingly more likely to speak and act unkindly towards one another.
(By the way, I don’t have to be convinced that this will be a struggle for the rest of their lives. I personally know that it will always be a struggle. If you know what I mean…)
Teaching Kids What the Bible Says About Speech
I’m drawing attention to our feeling clueless not to make us all feel even more helpless, but to highlight what a treasure we have in God’s word. Actually, it is better that we do feel a little helpless so that we will learn to depend upon God’s wisdom and not our own.
(Feel free to remind me of this the next time I want to throw my hands up in the air or shut myself in a bathroom.)
Instructing my children’s habits of speech has been a particular focus this year. We have had countless discussions about not only what they say, but how they say things. We have talked about using our words to build each other up and not to tear each other down. We have even talked about how in some situations a lack of talking can be unkind, rude, and sinful.
Verses about our words bringing healing, or being like the thrusts of a sword, or being able to relieve someone’s sorrow or anger, help to paint pictures children can understand. We talk about these word pictures before there is a conflict, and then remind them on the power of their words in the midst of the struggle too.
Introducing verses from the Bible that address speech, and then memorizing them together, has been our primary method for helping our children to understand two important things about their speech.
Two Things Children Should Understand About Their Speech
First, that it’s not just that mommy and daddy want them to talk a certain way. Or that as long as mommy and daddy can’t hear them, then they are free to talk however. The principles we are impressing upon them are from God, not just their parents.
Teaching our children that we parent under God’s authority is a key aspect of Biblical parenting. God has given us all (adults and children alike) very clear instructions about how we should speak, and it is our job as parents to teach (and model) these things to our children.
The second important thing that using scripture to teach our children about speech is that whenever we direct our children to the Bible, it is also always an opportunity to direct them to the gospel.
The Bible is NOT simply an instruction book for life; a helpful source of moral ideals that will make you a good person. So we should be careful not to teach our children God’s instructions without also shepherding their hearts as well.
The fact is, none of us will EVER be able to follow all of God’s instructions for speech all of the time. Please don’t let your children think this is possible.
Whenever we teach law without also teaching the gospel, we create an atmosphere in our home that is crushing to live under.
So what does it look like to teach them God’s instructions in balance with the hope of the gospel? Here are three ways to put this into practice:
- Teach them that God’s instructions are for our good. They are a gift and following them will help their lives to be full of peace and blessing (Who wants to be pierced with a sword or be brought to destruction???).
- Be honest that we all will fail and mess up, and then teach them what to do next. Help your kids understand how to seek forgiveness and restoration when they sin against each other.
- Let them know that God wants to help us follow His commands. Pray together and ask for God’s help to learn to speak with kindness and grace. Thank Him for His help and His grace when we fail.
There are so many verses in the Bible that teach us about our speech, but I have made a list of eight verses from Proverbs. They are simple for kids to understand, and easy to memorize.
Print multiple copies of these verses and hang them up in your home where you will all see them regularly. I also highly suggest memorizing them together (“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11).
How do you help your children grow in habits of godly speech in your home?