It usually happens in the van.
The back of the van, to be precise.
The back of the van on the way back from a massive grocery shopping trip, to be even more precise.
What is it? You already know, don’t you?
Whether someone took something, said something, hit something, or even looked at something, the result is the same:
voices raise, tempers flare, and angry words start flying.
Several weeks ago, I began a new practice with my children after one such monumental war. I call it “Speak Life” and base it off of this verse from Proverbs:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
I often use this verse to explain to my children that their words always bring either death or life to a person. When they use kind, loving words, they make someone feel encouraged and alive! When they use angry, harsh words, they make someone feel discouraged and like dying inside.
How does it work?
Speak Life is incredibly simple. I involve whoever has been fighting and have them say something kind about the person/people with whom they’ve been fighting.
I’ll give you a play by play so you can see how we work this exercise into our daily lives:
- child 1 instigates fight
- child 2 responds in anger
- child 3 gets in on the action
- mother gets angry and threatens terrible things when father returns
Wait, what? Oh whoops, that’s not the scenario I was supposed to tell you about.
Let’s try this again:
- A disagreement starts brewing among my kids.
- Unkind words start to fly.
- I try to understand the situation and figure out whether there was one main instigator or if there’s just a general tone of anger among the children.
- Once a resolution has been attempted, I call out the dreaded phrase, “Okay guys, you know what time it is? Time to Speak Life!”
I’m going to tell you this: the first couple times we did this, there were tears. “But I can’t think of anything nice to say about them!” Jonathan and I had to do a lot of coaching at the beginning. And sometimes the final life-giving phrase was something semi-lame like, “I like _____’s . . . eyes.” But hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere, right? So I’m calling it a win. (Albeit, a narrow victory.)
We don’t “Speak Life” after every fight, but usually when the general tone of our home seems extra negative and fight-y. Sometimes, to my children’s delight (ahem), I even call it out when there are no arguments happening. Imagine that! Saying kind things about someone else just because! A novel thought indeed!
Why I love it
- I love hearing what my children say about each other. Recently, Nate (5) said he liked how Anna Grace (7) could always find cool sharp sticks in the woods. And Anna Grace said she liked how Nate was such a good climber. After which, Nate decided to throw in a few other attributes, “Yeah, and I’m brave and strong too!” Clearly, we have no problem speaking life over ourselves. It just gets tricky when we have to speak life over others. Same, buddy. Same. Listening to what my children love about each other says a lot about what they value. And I’m all ears when it comes to those conversations.
2. I also love that I’m not only saying no to wrong actions, but also helping them practice right actions. It’s like this principle found in Ephesians:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,
but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion,
that it may give grace to those who hear.
3. Most especially, I love that this habit is based on Scripture. I desperately want my children to know that the Bible is not an old, outdated book, but it is God’s inspired Word that applies to our lives today – right this very second! Explaining and practicing Proverbs 18:21 is one of the ways I try to make this truth a reality in their lives.
May the Lord help us as we seek to help our children live out His Word!