There are many things we wish we did better as a family, and this year we decided to simplify our process by doing one Family Character Focus™ each month, instead of trying to haphazardly work on 20 things at a time. Our theory is that we’ll feel less crazy that way and make better progress.
The goal of this focus is to arm you with resources to help you communicate better as a family in 1 month. There is no wrong way to do it – just look through the ideas and choose the things that fit your family and schedule best.
Becoming a Family Who Communicates Well
Communication is one of the hardest things to master, so I feel like the more we work on training our children in it the better. We as parents can definitely use some work on it as well, especially the tones of voice that come out too often when we’re frustrated.
1. Read/Memorize Scripture
The best way to affect a real heart change is to renew our hearts and minds through Scripture, so this is definitely my favorite part of each month.
Keep Your Tongue from Evil (old kids’ song for Psalm 34:13)
Here is a list of some great scriptures to read or memorize for this focus (I’m sure we’ll be doing this multiple times):
Download these Scriptures as printable sheets to be cut into cards that you can keep together in a ring or use as mirror cards.
2. Speech Jar/Creative Discipline*
This idea stems from various tv shows that have an offense jar. I briefly considered using money, but quickly decided it would be much more effective to have the kids write (older) or illustrate (younger) a verse of our choosing that fit the negative communication. It’s important to note that this “discipline” is training rather than, or depending on the circumstances maybe in addition to, punishment.
We found that the time it took the kids to write out or illustrate a verse is very good for them and always results in a much better attitude. It’s also pretty funny to match up verses with the situation – I overheard Maeve saying earlier, “Maverick! How does Mom always have a verse that fits for me?!” Yes, she’s had to do a lot more verses than Maverick so far, just one of those phases, hehe.
3. Scripture Doodling*
I came across the idea of “scripture doodling” years ago, and I think it was the same artist who promotes it now, although I’m not completely sure because I lost my bookmark. Anyway, it’s a great way to meditate on scripture and allow God to show you new ways of thinking about His word and better “write it on your heart”. It’s also an excellent tool to use with kids. This is Maeve’s Colossians 4:6 – Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
4. Taming the Tongue Craft
I got the idea for this craft here, but I made it a little different for fun. Basically everyone gets to draw their own face and glue their tongue on, then you can decide how you use it from there. It just really adds a lot to have a visual. Some ideas are:
- Use the tongue as a gauge to measure words/tones of voice and color in incrementally to get a reward, or alternatively use like a sticker chart.
- Write a verse or kind words on your tongue to remind you how you want to use your tongue and hang it on the fridge as a reminder throughout the month.
- Talk about the power of the tongue/the power of our words, and how difficult it can be to tame. Maybe decide to keep each other accountable as a family and think of a secret word to use as a reminder when one of you isn’t “keeping guard” over your tongue.
- Put a clothespin on an offender’s (paper) tongue when they speak negatively/use a bad tone of voice. They need to say three nice things in order to get each clothespin removed.
Get this face printable in the Family Character Focus Communication Printables.
5. Play the Tone Game
I don’t know what to call this really, it was actually something a couple people did for the talent show back one year I went to summer camp growing up. It was really just to be funny, but I think it could be adapted to be a good way for kids (and let’s be honest, “big kids”, too) to really pay attention to the way we speak, because it has stuck with me as very memorable all these years.
Maybe we’ll try to make an example video of this and add it in later, but all you do is pick a short scene, whether one you borrow from a nursery rhyme or something or a real life situation that has happened in your family or one you imagine might happen, and go through it 3-5 times or so. Each time you act it out in over the top emotions. Suggestions are giddy, silly, angry, whiny, scared, bratty, etc.
One goal is to help kids really observe how very different things come across based on how they communicate, and how much control they have over that. Another goal is to simply illustrate how unattractive negative ways of interacting are. Of course it will just be kind of funny since it’s the adults acting like that, but there have definitely been times where we start to show our kids by example how ridiculous they’re acting in some real life moments and it usually lightens the mood 😉
6. Use an Encouragement System*
We’ve tried various methods to encourage good behavior over the years, but I would have to say that our favorite is using Deck of Awesome cards.
For this focus we would be watching for when our kids are communicating well – choosing not to whine, talk back, etc, and give them a card when they do an especially good job. Our policy has been that when they collect 10 cards they can turn them in for a quarter, but you can let the cards be the reward in itself, or do something special with them or give them a treat or something instead of money, and you can obviously change up the number of cards to whatever works best for your family. Something fun about these cards is that they also fit together to make a puzzle. They’re basically like the trading cards of good behavior 🙂
If you don’t want to purchase anything you can always make your own or use one of the many chart systems or come up with your own creative idea.
- The Other Woman – gossip (Adventures in Odyssey)
- Rumor Has It – gossip (Adventures in Odyssey)
- Sermons on speech from John Piper
- Sermons on taming the tongue from John MacArthur
- 30 Days to Taming Your Kid’s Tongue
- 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue
- Stopping Words That Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone Negative
- Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It from Your Life and Transform Your Soul
- Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue
Kids of Integrity has lots more ideas for courteous communication here!
Check out more Family Character Focus™ topics here!
*These ideas can be adapted for any character focus, so you’ll probably see them in the lineup each month unless I figure out a better way to do it.