How We Should Be Talking to Our Kids

Ephesians 4:29-30 “Let no (not a single one!) corrupt (rotten; worthless) communication (more than your words–your tone of voice, your expression, etc.) proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying (building up spiritually; encouraging), that it may minister grace (help; kindness; good will; favor ) unto the hearers.”

I’d like to address a topic that has consumed me lately: the way parents ought to talk to their children. I think this Ephesians passage is a good place to start: as parents, we ought not let a single word come out of our mouths that will tear down our children. Instead, every word should be spiritually encouraging, edifying, and helpful to them.

One way I believe parents “corrupt” their children is in the way they handle discipline situations. Most of us would probably agree that it is important to teach our children to obey and to correct them when they do not. But some parents seem to believe that obedience can be taught at any cost: through yelling, screaming, belittling, manipulating, etc. Oftentimes, we employ these “corrupting” methods because we are viewing their disobedience as more of a personal offense against us (“Why do you put me through this?” “Why do I have to tell you this over and over again?”, “Can’t I just have some peace and quiet for awhile?”) rather than an opportunity to teach and guide our children.

From John Younts’s book, Everyday Talk:

“Parents, when you give in to anger, resentment or self-pity at your children’s bad behavior, you make yourself the center of the problem. You are loving yourself first and most. You must love your kids enough to show them the danger of their behavior. They need to see that their first problem is with God, and only secondarily with you. … You must be more concerned for them than for yourself, and you must be concerned most of all for God. By modeling patience, love, self-control–and all the fruit of the Spirit–you teach your children how extraordinary God is.”

From Tim Kimmel’s Grace-Based Parenting:

We need to “realize that (our) children will struggle with sin. …Consider it an honor to be used by God to show (your) children how to find true forgiveness in Christ. (Don’t be) intimidated by the dialogue that brings the discussion of sin into the light. In fact, (be) grateful to be able to come alongside (your) children with an unconditional love during some of their toughest hours. ”

I believe there’s a better way to correct our children when they’re disobedient, rather than anger, manipulation, exasperation, or belittling. And I believe it’s the biblical way:

Proverbs 16:20-24 “He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. 21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning (persuasiveness). 22 Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly. 23 The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips. 24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 15 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly… 4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. 18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.… 28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

If you are a parent, grandparent, youth worker, or anyone who leads children or teenagers, I urge you to shed the tough-guy, heavy-handed approach and adopt the gentler, more pleasant, biblical approach which, perhaps, has not ever occurred to you before. The “corruption” that comes from yelling, belittling, or manipulation may not be evident  until your children are older and no longer hiding their true problems behind a facade of outward obedience.

*I’ve struggled over how to construct this post for days, and I’m still not satisfied with it. I think this is a HUGE issue, and I keep seeing and hearing antecdotes that make me want to share God’s Word far and wide on this topic. Maybe at some point I’ll be articulate enough to do it justice, but for now here is my feeble attempt to share the treasures of what God has been teaching me lately. May it spur you on to further thought and study.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Addy,
    I have been thinking of this all week. Thank you for sharing what the Lord has laid on your heart – He has used you in my life yet again! My childhood was filled with verbal abuse, physical abuse, manipulation, and guilt, and at times I see myself get close to repeating the pattern. Thank you for the quotes and scripture verses – this has helped confirm in my mind how the Lord wants me to interact with my kids concerning discipline.

  2. Thank you, Lacey! God is teaching me so much about this lately; I wish I could fully articulate it. May God help us both to glorify Him through and to our children!

  3. Thank you. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. There are two things I’ve been trying to put into practice, especially during pregnancy when my patience is extra thin.
    One is to take a gentler attitude when they cross the line and have to accept consequences. “Oh no, you threw blocks down the stairs. I’m sorry you won’t be able to play with them now” instead of “That’s it, buddy! Now you’ve done it!”
    The other is to swallow my pride and apologize when I’ve been harsh with them. It’s not easy, but even my almost-3-year-old seems to understand. And his sweet smile and “I forgive you” hug is worth the embarrassment. 🙂
    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could reach perfection and get our official “sanctification certificate” before the kids come along?

    • Thanks for commenting, Melita! That would be nice! It’s interesting that God uses these most special people in our lives as our greatest sanctifying influences, when we’d much rather have it all together first, huh?

  4. Excellent thoughts, Addy. Thanks for the encouragement and rebuke. I have Everyday Talk, but haven’t read it through. I need to move it to the top of my reading pile.
    Leigh Ann

  5. […] found a great article here written by a mother about the way we speak to our children. It was a good reminder to speak with […]

  6. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Addy. I have to remind myself of this verse:
    Col. 3:12 “Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering.”
    You’re right to say that when we react the wrong way, it is out self-centeredness.


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