The Power of the Tongue

Last Updated on March 18, 2024

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” – Proverbs 31: 26

“When I try to correct my four-year-old daughter, she tells me, ‘Mommy, you hurt my heart.’”

I was speaking to a moms’ group on how to train for good behavior while also encouraging character development. This comment came from one tender mom of a very clever preschooler.

“Try this, tell her, ‘I’m not speaking to your heart, I’m talking to your head.”

We laughed. And even though we got a good chuckle, most of us understand the power of our tongue and its possible effect on our kids. We could appreciate this mom’s concern about potentially wounding her child by using correction.

Because of what the young girl verbalized—the mom was worried she had hurt her young one while using correction.  She didn’t want to do that.

We don’t want to hurt our kids when we correct either. Most moms want correction to be a positive learning experience. 

We went on to discuss some correction principles.  Here are a few guidelines for parents to recall before correcting. These correction fundamentals work with littles to bigs.

Three Correction Principles 

  1. Correction is not rejection. It is our job to parent our children; to train them in acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This training needs to include unconditional love. The child needs to know they are loved even while being corrected. Discuss the behavior as being unacceptable, rather than telling the child they are bad or a brat. 
  2. Correction follows connection.  If you are ready to correct, connect first. It could look like, “I can tell you are frustrated. I get frustrated too. Let’s figure out how to work through this frustration together.” Connection typically leads to resolving a problem together in a helpful way. 
  3. Correction is different from criticism. Correction speaks to the mind while criticism attacks the heart. Criticism is personal. It sounds like, “I knew you’d do that wrong. You always mess up.” Correction isn’t personal, it is a logical adjustment.  “It looks like you need some help. Here’s another way to do that.” Correction works toward a solution and is respectful. Criticism shames.

It’s up to us to train our kids. Many kids do not automatically know how to deal with big emotions constructively. They need help implementing self-regulation and control. Others tend to guess wrong regarding how to act and need training in the nuances of social interaction. 

How we say things matters.

Here are some typical toxic verbal missiles that prevent connection correction and feel like rejection: 

  1. Wouldah, shouldah, couldah. These words typically follow a misstep. At this point, everyone knows another way would be better. 
  2. “I told you so.” As tempting as it may be to point out, this comment is not helpful.
  3. Always, never. Avoid absolutes. 
  4. Broadcasting failure. Telling of a child’s misdeeds in front of that child, to another adult. 
  5. Being a historian. Instead of reminding the child of past failures, be prepared with a plan to avoid repeating a situation. For example, if your little one tends to run at grandma’s and then often breaks something, make a plan to walk and keep their hands in their pockets. 

We want our words to be seasoned with grace, truth, love, and wisdom. The messages we send our kids need to be words that speak life and build them up. Focus on and reinforce the good things often so that when a behavior needs correction it won’t feel devastating.  

Our kids are growing up in a hard world. They need positivity, support, and encouragement. Here are 3 powerful messages that our kids crave to hear and need to believe.

3 Powerful Messages Our Kids Need

  1. You are loved and loveable.
  2. You are capable.
  3. Your life is purposeful. 

The tongue is a powerful organ. It can be used to build up or tear down. If we are mindful of our words, that power can be used for God’s glory and for our kids’ good. 

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” – Proverbs 14:1

For more resources on communication and correction read The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections.