We had 9 children coming and going this weekend. While this two-day playdate was packed full of adventure fun, there were definitely moments of aggravation and fussiness. I heard words like weener, crap, and buttface. I felt like I entered into The Sandlot with all the pre-testosterone attitude flying around. For the majority of the time, everyone was engaged and cooperative, and free just to be silly friends.
Sunday evening came, and the kids finally had a calm moment to decompress. They shared their concerns about some inappropriate words they heard (and no doubt participated in). They also shared things that sounded to me like gossip and rumors, which was disconcerting. Their friends were detailing the failings of kids they know, and judging the actions of others. Finally, I was deeply saddened to hear that one child shared that he had been called a “faggot”. My kids don’t know the meaning of this word – but they could tell it was hurtful.
I was reminded of James chapter 3 and explained the idea of “taming the tongue”.
James 3:7,8 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.
We talked about how the bible has lots to say about our words and how we can use them for building up or for tearing down. We discussed definitions of words and phrases. What is gossip? What is a rumor and how is it different or the same as a lie? What is meant by “betraying confidence”? How does it feel to be called names? How does it feel to hear your friends were hurt by the words of a bully?
We brainstormed a few tongue-taming rules:
- If something is discouraging rather than encouraging, or you think it might hurt someone’s feelings, don’t say it.
- If it’s not your news to share, don’t share it.
- If you don’t know that a story is true, don’t spread it.
- If it is inappropriate or potentially embarrassing, don’t let it come out of your mouth!
Finally, we looked up several verses in Psalms and Proverbs.
“Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”
(Psalms 34:12-13, NIV)
“Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit.”
(Psalms 52:2, NIV)
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
(Proverbs 12:25 NIV)
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
(Proverbs 11:13, NIV)
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
(Proverbs 16:24, NIV)
“The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.”
(Proverbs 15:28, NIV)
“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”
(Proverbs 8:13, NIV)
“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”
(Proverbs 16:28, NIV)
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”
(Proverbs 15:1-2, NIV)
“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
(Proverbs 15:4, NIV)
Reading these verses aloud reminds me that NOW is the time to bust out those bridles. Some may sluff off events like this, and claim that the current content of kid-gossip and insults is harmless. But I assure you, that beast will only get stronger, and the stakes will only get higher. Make sure you are talking to your kids about the conversations they have with their friends. Be intentional about popping in regularly during play dates. Keep an open line of communication with your little ones. Let them know they can trust you with their concerns about their friends. Listen. Help them make a plan ahead of time, so that if they get into a situation they are uncomfortable with, they will know what to do. And coach them toward awareness of what comes out of their own mouths. Taming the tongue is a lifelong journey!