I was taking the girls to their various practices last night, when my younger daughter found her take-home sheet from church in the car. She picked it up and read, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
“That’s a lie,” said my older daughter. “Sometimes words can hurt more than breaking your arm.”
“It should say, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can do more damage,’” my younger daughter said.
My 8- and 10-year-old girls have learned the harsh truth about carelessly uttered words. They hurt, and they leave scars where no one can see them.
After we had dropped my younger daughter off at the grandparents (because some nights it takes an extra driver to get everyone where they need to go) my older daughter continued the topic by filling me in on all the girl drama taking place at school. It made me sad to know that at 10 and 11 years old, these girls had figured out how to use their words as a weapon.
If there’s one thing we can teach our kids that will make a difference in this world, it’s that words matter. The Bible compares our tongue to a spark that can start a raging fire (James 3:5). Carelessly spoken words have the ability to pierce more sharply than a sword, and the effects last longer.
Yet, kind words can be just as powerful. A kind word spoken in the midst of difficulty can change a person’s outlook. Proverbs 25:11 says “The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl.” What a great picture of what our words can look like.
Help your kids understand the power of their words to wound and to heal.
1. Get a piece of paper and a metal bowl. Take a match, light it and ask your kids if they think the flame is big. Light the paper on fire and drop it in the bowl. Watch as the flame flares up. Explain to your kids that our words are like the match. A small, unkind word can cause someone else to feel really bad, leaving them feeling like the ashes in the bowl.
2. Give your kids each five $1 bills. Ask how they would spend each of their dollars. Ask if they would make careful choices with their money because they don’t want to waste it. Explain that our words are like money; they are valuable. We need to choose wisely how we spend them. When we let words carelessly drop from our lips, we run the risk of hurting someone else. We need to think about our words as much as we would think about how we are going to spend our money.
3. Buy a couple of fake apples and a pretty silver bowl. Have your kids help you either spray paint the apples gold or cover them in gold glitter. Place the apples in the bowl, write Proverbs 25:11 on a notecard and attach it to the bowl. Place the bowl in a prominent place in your house where everyone can see it as a reminder that our words should be as beautiful as golden apples in a silver bowl.
Nothing we can do can take back an unkind word. Once it is out of our mouths, we can only try to heal the damage it has caused. Our words matter, and we can choose to make our words helpful and kind or we can choose to use them to wound others. Imagine the difference it would make if we all chose the kind and helpful option.