As adults, we know that words have power. But how can we share this lesson with our kids? In a society where approximately one-third of elementary-aged students have been bullied, it’s absolutely essential. And thankfully, with a bit of creativity, we can share hands-on examples of this power with children of any age.
#1: The Toothpaste Experiment
This may get a bit messy, but it’s a solid representation of the power negative words carry. Give your child a tube of toothpaste and an empty plate. To start the project, simply tell them to squeeze out all of the toothpaste. They’ll likely spend a few minutes, make some designs, and enjoy doing something they’ve never done before.
When they’re all finished, ask them to put the toothpaste back inside the tube. They may try, or they may simply look at you with a confused face.
It’s not possible to get all of the toothpaste back in the tube, just as it’s not possible to erase the damage negative words can do. Apologizing can help, but words have power that lasts forever — and that’s exactly why we need to do our best to use positive ones as often as possible!
#2: The Crumpled Heart Experiment
If you want to do something a bit easier that portrays the same meaning, try handing your child a paper heart and having them crumple it up into a ball. Then, have them straighten it out and remove all of the wrinkles. Once again, it’s not possible. The power of words is too strong to take away!
#3: The Compliment Challenge
Teaching kids the power of negative words is one thing. But they need to be aware of positive words' incredibly uplifting ability, too. And since these words are kind and thoughtful, you might as well witness their power in real life!
Give your child a challenge to say 3 nice things throughout the week. This could be to their siblings or other family members, classmates or teachers, or even strangers they pass in the store (with you present, of course).
When they say something kind, have them pay attention to the expression on the person’s face. An immediate smile is a great way to prove they’ve just made their day!
Here are some kind words in case your kids need help coming up with what to say:
- I like your shirt!
- Great job at basketball practice today!
- You’re so good at math (or other subject/activity).
- I like playing with you.
- You’re fun to talk to!
Understanding the power of words is a lifelong journey, but these activities can get your family off on the right foot. After you finish each task, remember to talk often about what negative and positive words can do for others. Mention the words you notice in real life and continue to be your children's guide as they learn to use their verbal power for the better!