Or will they?
One of the chapters I read in the book Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic talked about using good words and teaching your children to use good words.
In the beginning, that's what we were doing. We were more careful about keeping our language clean and using positive, uplifting words. But lately, I feel, we've been using more harsh words. We get frustrated and exasperated with our kids and we say things like "That's stupid!" or "Shut up!" when our anger is elevating. The kids have picked up on this and have started saying these unkind words to each other.
Because of our Family Declaration, I felt it was time to talk about cleaning up our language around here. So on Monday night, I gave a little *FHE lesson on that very subject. Then it was funny that the very next day, Mormon Mommy Blogs posted a post about how it's silly that people get offended by words like "stupid". But if you think about it, when is stupid ever used in a positive, uplifting way? When is it ever used not to offend? Even if all you're doing is saying how something looks stupid or seems stupid or was stupid, not referring to a person, it's still said with a negative connotation. On the flip side, there was a post yesterday on Raising Homemakers about the overuse of the word "no" and how to substitute other words and phrases for the word "no" to get across what you really want to say. It was a great, uplifting post.
When I taught this lesson, I grabbed the dry erase board and a marker. I drew a line down the middle of the board and wrote a title on each side of the line: Mean, Hurtful Words and Nice, Uplifting Words. Then I asked the kids what words they wanted to write up on the board.
Interestingly enough, for all those people who don't think "stupid" is offensive enough to take out of their vocabulary, that was the first word they listed under Mean, Hurtful Words. They went on to list crybaby, retarded, dumb, and idiot. Then they listed name-calling as a category under that section and insults. Last they listed swear words and put-downs.
Under Nice, Uplifting Words, they listed super, fantastic, I love you, really nice, and saying sorry nicely. We made a poster that says: If you can't think of anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. We coined the phrase that way instead of the typical "If you can't say something nice...." because we decided that our thoughts lead to our words, so we need to focus on the thoughts first.
I feel the activity really resonated with them. I even let the word "stupid" slip out yesterday and they all called me up on it. I think it's really going to help the spiritual atmosphere of our home by focusing on speaking kind, uplifting words.
*FHE means Family Home Evening, something we members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints try to do once a week, usually on Monday nights, to teach our children the Gospel and spend quality family time together