“No, YOU’RE dumb!”
“Well you’re a loser!”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“You’re a butthead!”
Name-calling between children is a challenge in many families. Once kids get on a roll of slinging names back and forth it can seem like an express train to a sibling meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way — you can help your kids turn their angry words into an opportunity to connect and rebuild even stronger relationships.
It is said that it takes four kind statements to “undo” one unkind statement. With this in mind, our family implemented a “four kind and true things” policy. Each time one of the kids said something unkind and/or untrue (“You’re STUPID!”), they completed a “make it right” consequence of four kind and true statements before resuming privileges.
Not wanting to make anything a parent-enforced drill, we encouraged the kids to take the calming time they needed to be sincere. The first “kind and true” was about directly correcting the hurtful, untrue statement, at least two had to be fresh and not used before. (“You’re NOT stupid, you’re really good at reading, I’m glad you shared your Legos with me, you’re fun to play Uno with.”) Occasionally if the “name-caller” got stuck, the “name-called” child would help out by suggesting a few creative ideas of his or her own personal strengths.
This practice set a wonderful tone of reconciliation in our family. Adding a discussion of Ephesians 4:15, about speaking the truth in love, helped cement the biblical nature of this activity.
This approach flows from a perspective that it is much more helpful to train than to punish. It is interesting to note that the child in our family who most often needed to complete “four kind and trues” has become the strongest affirmer of others. One morning we found a note our eldest, Daniel, wrote spontaneously to his little brother. “Dear Noah, Thanks for being a neat, fun, little guy who defuses conflicts wisely and says funny things all the time and is smart like crazy, who makes me a proud big brother.” (Wow, even more than four!)
With the intense personalities in our family, conflict will never be eliminated, but the blessing of this approach is that we easily return to a place of connection and joy.
Apply It Now:
- Read Ephesians 4:15 with your kids and talk about what it means to “speak the truth in love.”
- The next time someone (even a parent!) says something unkind, encourage them to take a break to write down “four kind and true things” about the person they hurt. Make sure your tone communicates – “I’m for you, I believe the best in you.”
- Celebrate the contrast between the feelings of name-calling, and how it feels to speak the truth in love to one another. This is how God designed our hearts! 🙂