As we were riding to school in the car, my 11-year-old son (without prompting) said, “Mom did you know Donald Trump said he was going to send a nuke and kill all of Isis? He said he was also going to make America great again. Do you think he will?”
While my goal is not to take a political stance, I am reminded that children hear, experience and process messages through a variety of sources, and when we least expect it. Think about the many places … television, radio, friends, video games, friends and yes … their parents!
I will be the first to admit that I have said something unkind about someone else, while my children are listening. There is no doubt, I shouldn’t have. What are we teaching our kids when they hear us criticize someone else? I can’t help but think we would have a kinder, gentler nation if we would only speak nicer of others, especially when our kids are listening (I promise … I will do better).
So how do we teach our children to speak to others with kindness?
First and foremost, we must model the behavior we expect from our child. Let’s face it … a majority of what a child hears is from their parents, siblings, teachers, child care providers, and more. The tone of your voice will impact our message, much more than they types of words we will use.
Secondly, a gentle reminder to your children never hurts, when we hear them says a “bad word” or share unkind words. It’s important to spend time explaining why it’s unkind and then finding other words might be more acceptable. This helps our children to understand again what is expected, and also gives them some autonomy over the words they can choose to use.
The Christian Parent Center says, “One of the ways to make sure that good things come out of our mouths is to make sure that only good things are going into our minds.” I love the analogy they use. If we want sweet tasting cooking from the cookie jar, we must first put in a sweet tasting cookie. This means we carefully monitor what our kids are seeing and hearing in the world around them. Fill them with positive images and messages, in order for them to deliver positive messages.
Lastly, and perhaps my personal opinion, leave the swear words out. Very rarely do swear words solve a situation or make a person look more important or intelligent. If our children are listening to us swear, it becomes an acceptable part of their day. How do we feel when we hear a child swear at us? Not very good, I am assuming.
As our nation moves forward with a new president, let us be diligent in teaching our kids to speak kind, treat others fairly, and love one another unconditionally. In honor of Dr. Martin King Luther Jr., I leave you with this … I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board. All thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the author and not the board and/or its community partners.