We believe words matter. Because the words we say to each other are so important, we have some banned words in our family – and some might surprise you!
Ultimately, our goal is to raise our kids to speak words that are both true and kind.
Our Goal: Words That Are True
Truthfulness is one of our key family values and a big part of our family culture.
Open & honest communication is important in any relationship. When dishonesty starts to creep into a relationship, secrets develop and emotional distance grows. We want to keep a close connection with our kids, and truthfulness is a large part of that.
We encourage truthfulness by using accurate words. In today’s culture – especially on social media – exaggerated rhetoric is the norm.
Overusing strong words will ultimately weaken the meaning of our words. We help our kids choose accurate words for their circumstance.
For example, they’re not “starving” when dinner is delayed 10 minutes. That’s not accurate, and we help them find a more accurate word like “hungry.”
Overusing strong words will ultimately weaken the meaning of our words.
It’s not a “disaster” when a glass of water is spilled. Cleaning their room is not “devastating.”
You get the point.
We’re admittedly pretty picky about this, so we help them choose appropriate words to express themselves accurately and truthfully.
Our Goal: Words That Are Kind
The words we say to each other can either hurt or help. (This is one of our Words To Live By – 36 Life Phrases we want our kids to know. You can learn more and get the full list here.)
The words we say to each other can either hurt or help.
Kind words cost us nothing, so we encourage our kids to speak kindly. We point out when they speak hurtful words – especially words that aim to label another person. We don’t want our own kids to identify themselves with negative labels, and we certainly don’t want our kids to assign negative labels to others.
Are our kids perfect at this? Absolutely not! It seems like it’s a daily discussion, but we hope some of it is sinking in!
With these two goals in mind, here are 7 banned words in our family – some may surprise you!
We’re teaching our kids to have a growth mindset – that they can accomplish things with dedication and hard work.
It’s not necessarily that they can’t do something. Often, they’re either too small, too young, or haven’t had enough practice or experience.
In these situations, a better phrase is, “Can you help me?” Or, “Can you show me how?” Or, “Can we do this together?”
This is a cue for us, as parents, to encourage them to practice, work hard, and try again. Mistakes mean you’re trying. It’s okay to fail, but it’s not okay to quit. (You guessed it: more of our Words to Live By!)
It’s okay to fail, but it’s not okay to quit.
“Whatever” (Also, “I Don’t Care”)
When I was a public school teacher, I enjoyed teaching kids who were talkative, goofy, overactive and even angry. Why? Because I knew what they felt and I knew how to steer them toward a goal.
But apathy? I have no patience for it.
This banned phrase may be partially due to personal preference, but apathy drives me bonkers. We should always have an idea, thought, or opinion, and we should have the confidence and communication skills to express them.
Our kids aren’t included of every decision we make, but when we ask for their opinion, “I don’t care” doesn’t cut it.
One of the best pieces of advice my husband received on our wedding day was from an older, experienced married man. His advice was this: “Always have an opinion. Having an opinion shows you’re invested, you’re engaged, and you care.”
It doesn’t mean you need to dig your heels in on every decision that needs to be made, but it does mean you’re bringing something to the table. So we teach our kids to always have an opinion.
“Stupid” (Includes: “dumb, idiot,” etc)
Think back to your childhood. Was there ever a moment when someone said one negative thing about you, and it’s stuck with you all this time?
They probably don’t remember what they said, but it’s tumbled around in your brain ever since.
Our words can either help or hurt, and labeling another person with negative words will hurt. We certainly don’t want to be the person whose negative words lead to negative thoughts that stay in someone’s mind, potentially becoming part of their perceived identity.
We don’t have the right or the authority to assign negative labels to another person. We want to speak life toward others!
Anyone else have a mother/grandmother who used to say, “Only boring people get bored”?
It’s true! Our minds are created to have vivid imaginations, witty ideas and deep thoughts. We can sing, dream, pray, build, decide and plan – just in our mind!
Not to mention the toy buckets, book shelves, and craft bins we have in the house.
And, what about going outside?
Our home is mostly screen-free, so we don’t have iPads, Kindles, or a TV around for them to turn to whenever there’s “nothing” to do.
If one of our kids appear to be “bored,” we remind them that God created them to be creative and imaginative, and we encourage them to create, read, or play. If they don’t want to do any of those things, we tell them there’s always a cleaning project they could do!
In our family, “hate” is reserved for one thing: evil. This is what God hates, and we are to follow His example.
Should we say we “hate” broccoli, for example? Hate? Broccoli doesn’t warrant a strong response like “hate.” If we hate a vegetable, what word is left to describe how we feel about evil? Using an extreme word for everyday things cheapens the value of the word.
Because our kids understand the true meaning of the word, they don’t use it toward a person. They understand “I hate you” or “I hate (insert name here)” is not acceptable, because every person is created in the image of God, has great value, and is someone Jesus died for.
This is maybe the most difficult one for our kids! Here’s how it usually happens:
Does this just happen with our kids?
It’s difficult to have a constructive conversation based on a faulty premise. I assure you, our son will not be 92 years old and still be playing with that toy, our daughter will share at some point, and all our kids play together every day. “Never” is rarely an accurate word in these situations.
It’s simply not true.
We understand what they’re trying to say. A better way to say these things are:
Notice how removing the “never” can open the door to real feelings and a real conversation, instead of just throwing verbal bombs at another person?
Similar to our thoughts on the word “hate,” we are careful with our use of the word “love.”
We love God and love people, and we like things.
We love our siblings, our grandparents, our friends. But do we love….donuts? Not quite the same category!
If our kids say they love donuts and baseball and movies and those new shoes, it’ll be easy to say they “love” their 8th grade crush. It’s a distorted perspective on love.
The word “love” means something.
Don’t get me wrong: We say “I love you” countless times to each other. They hear my husband and I say it multiple times every single day, and they hear us talk about our love for God. Love is precious and we don’t want to devalue the word by using it toward meaningless things.
Ultimately, our choice of words stems from Philippians 4:8. It reveals what we should think about, and we believe it’s also what we should talk about:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
We’d like to hear from you. What are some unique banned words in your family?