One of my favorite authors and bloggers, Becky Danielson of 1Corinthians13Parenting.com is guest blogging blogging today. And boy did I need this message. Plus, scroll down and you could win a copy of her new book!
“#*&%!” I cringed as the profane word escaped his lips, again. As a young teacher, new to the classroom, I’d tried everything I could think of to extinguish the foul language of this five-year-old child. It was time to contact his parents.
His mom answered the phone when I called later that afternoon. I described my concerns, explaining that other children were beginning to mimic the forbidden words her son was using. She was shocked and assured me she and her husband would talk to their child that evening. As we were ending the conversation, she thanked me for calling and said, “I just don’t know where the #*&% he got that but I’ll talk to him. Thanks again for calling.”
Seriously, it’s a true story. Language is, at its core, modeling.
Swearing, sarcasm, rudeness, and back talk are disrespectful and just plain ugly behaviors. In a child, the words can be even more aggravating. Who do our kids copy in the way they speak and act?
The culture has produced great role models for disrespect. Try watching any TV show or movie to see what I mean. Kids are applauded for being sarcastic and rude. Consider the TV shows, movies, and music your children listen to most often. Kids mimic what they see and hear. My boys began trash talking one another as they had seen in a popular children’s TV show. My husband and I pulled the plug on that particular program, had a talk with the boys, and the behavior stopped.
Pushing the boundaries is part of growing up. Apart from media and society as a whole leaning toward rudeness, kids are maturing and responding to the need for independence. Developmentally, the child moves from speaking literally to figurative language. To feel “smart”, children will often put down others with derogatory remarks and cutting comments.
So what’s a parent to do? Expect the best. Expectations play a major role in how family members communicate with one another. If Mom and Dad are respectful of others, chances are the children will be too. But the opposite is true as well.
Even if your children are generally polite, rude language can and will creep into their word bank. Ignoring it won’t help. Kids learn it’s okay to act and speak to others that way if Mom and Dad don’t correct them. Speak up. Ask the child to rephrase the comment and expect the child to do it.
Set the ground rules for respectful communication. Start with a family meeting. Talk about respectful words and actions. Set specific rules for how family members are to speak to one another. State the rule in the positive. We use respectful words, tone, and gestures. We used indoor voices. We speak clearly without muttering. Post the rules where every family member can see them. Refer to the rules when necessary. Once the rules are written, be consistent in what you expect and enforce the rules.
Here are a few more tips to tame a sharp tongue:
- Disengage. Don’t play into the behavior by adding a rude comment yourself.
- Expect the best, but be ready for the worst.
- Have logical consequences for rude behavior.
- Have a signal to warn the child he’s on shaky ground. (i.e. Touch your ear to remind him to listen to his words.)
- Build in empathy. “How would you like someone to speak to you like that?” The Golden Rule applies to language too.
- Compliment kids when they speak and act kindly toward others. Praise works!
Next time you hear a zinger come out of your child’s mouth be prepared to squelch it. Kind words and actions are relationship builders. Cruel, rude, and sarcastic remarks are relationship busters.
Becky Danielson, M.Ed., is wife and mom of two sons as well as a licensed Parent & Family Educator and co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. She is the co-author of the newly released 1 Corinthians 13 Parent Series: Raising Little Kids with Big Love and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love and the Study Guides. You can find the books on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com Contact Becky at beckydanielson.com & 1Corinthians13Parenting.com.
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