One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is speech that edifies and builds others up.
Like it or not, children want to be just like their parents. If I want my son or daughter to be respectful of their elders, speak with kindness, and think before they speak, then I must learn to be a good example. The tongue isn’t easy to tame. But there are things we can do to help keep the tongue in its place. Here are four actions I have found that help.
1⃣ Check my heart. I can tell when I’m growing complacent in my walk with Christ because my language is more negative and unchecked. I hear myself complain more, become aggravated by little things, and throw more “pity parties,” as we call them. So I know it’s time to step up my devotionals, Bible reading, and, if possible, join Bible studies. The more I fill up my heart and mind with God’s words, the more godly principles flow through my life and filter out through my language.
2⃣ Think before I speak. I have to stop letting words escape my lips before I know what I’m saying. This is especially important for habitual words, like “stupid” and “hate.” I only say them to emphasize what I’m feeling, but Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (NIV). If I take the time to think about my words, I can find kinder and more accurate ways to communicate those feelings. That means talking slower so I can think first, letting some space fill the conversation, and being purposeful about the words I choose.
3⃣ Keep reminders around. Scriptures on the fridge and in the car remind me about the importance of speech. The book of Proverbs is full of convicting quips.
4⃣ Replace bad with good. As the old saying goes, “There is always something good to say.” In almost every situation, there is good and bad. Instead of immediately verbally attacking the negative side of everything, we can choose to emphasize the good. I’m not suggesting that we make up something positive or lie about our opinions to cover up our true feelings. But there is a way to sincerely compliment the forgotten or overlooked positive attributes. It’s a matter of choosing to see the good. Some people would call this “optimism.” I call it “graciousness.”
Building up their future instead of tearing it down
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
When it comes to our children, we are often concerned about their future well-being. Many people set up monetary accounts for education, starting a home, even future vehicles. Yet, the way a child speaks is just as important for success in life, and it’s often the most overlooked.
The way a person uses his tongue determines what kind of person he is. It can hurt or heal, bring freedom or bondage, and the way we wield this weapon can be passed down to our children and affect their lives. It’s more important than any monetary advantage we can give them.
I want my legacy to be one of a beautiful tongue—one of grace, mercy, and kind truthfulness. But in order to pass down these skills, I must begin speaking that way right now, even before my children can form sentences on their own. Just as I want them to learn to walk upright, obey their parents, and love their neighbors, I also want them to learn to use one of their most powerful weapons—the tongue—for the good of others. And it begins now.