One of the most important things I’ve learned to do with my children is to coach them on their speech. I’ve oftentimes disapproved of their speech without teaching them what to do instead. It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of barking rebukes at them:
“Don’t talk to me like that!”
Or my one year old sits on the floor and screams while I silently and obediently get him some milk.
In all those cases my one goal is to stop the peace-arresting noise of conflict and displeasure. Instead, my goal should be to teach my kids how to communicate kindly, graciously, and effectively.
My kids’ problem is that they’re just responding in ways that are natural for them. They won’t know how to act any different unless someone shows them. I need to get down on their level and communicate gently that their current response is unacceptable, and demonstrate with my words and tone what is.
“That way you talked to me is very disrespectful, and that’s not allowed in this house. Why don’t you say, ‘Mom, may I please watch the end of this show, and then I’ll clean up?'”
“Hey, let’s not fight. Don’t scream and grab. Say, ‘Can I play with that toy, please?'”
And to my one-year old, “No, we don’t need to scream’. Say, ‘Mommy… I… want… milk… please…'”
Now we’re giving our children something to replace their bad behavior with. We are giving them their best chance to learn to talk respectfully and kindly if we take the time to coach them on it, word by word.
Let your speech always be with grace… Colossians 4:6