The tongue may be small, but it's impact is great! That's why author Ginger Hubbard believes parents need to put their kids on the right track early by teaching and training them to be wise with their words. If a parent is unsure whether a child is telling the truth, Hubbard believes he should err on the side of mercy. But if a parent knows for certain a child has lied, they need to address the issue and remind the child of the relational consequences of their behavior, and then apply suitable discipline.
About the Guest
Ginger Hubbard believes parents need to put their kids on the right track early by teaching and training them to be wise with their words.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 9th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. As parents, how can we begin to understand the heart issues that are manifesting themselves as tongue issues with our kids? We’re going to talk more about that today with Ginger Hubbard. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, we set out on a quest this week to try to help parents with tongue issues with their kids. I’m not talking about piercing. [Laughter] I’m talking about the control of the tongue—the behavior/the speech of your child. We said, “Let’s tackle all of these subjects that are in Ginger Hubbard’s book, I Can’t Believe You Just Said That!” There is whining, lying, tattling, defying; and we stopped at whining. We never got any farther than that; so, maybe, we can get a few more of these in as we talk to Ginger.
Dave: You know, I want to complain about that right there, Bob. [Laughter]
These are real issues for moms; aren’t they?
Ann: They are such real issues—
Dave: —and dads—and dads.
Bob: Well, that’s right.
Ann: Yes; but I think, as moms, we don’t always feel like there are a lot of tools out there to help us and equip us. Ginger, you get into some really great tools and principles.
Bob: Ginger is an author and a speaker. She’s been on FamilyLife Today before. We’re glad to have you back. Welcome back.
Ginger: Thank you, Bob. Good to be back.
Bob: This is something that, as you talked to moms about the issues of their children’s speech—almost as much as the kid’s behavior—the speech may be a bigger issue than the behavior. If they are acting out/if they are disobeying, it’s more often verbalized than it is with destructive behavior; right?
Ginger: Right; it is. You know, we want to look past that verbal behavior—what’s coming out of their mouths—and want to look at: “What is the sin issue in the heart that is driving that outward behavior?” Then, once we’re able to identify what that heart issue is, then we can go to God’s Word; because you better believe God’s Word has something to say about it—once we know what the heart issue is—because God is not just concerned with the outward behavior; He is concerned with the heart.
Dave: So, here is a question from a dad—you know, I’m thinking about, “Okay; I want to get my child’s heart.” Obviously, we want to get to our own heart as well; but how do you help see that heart changed?
Ginger: By getting them to practice the biblical alternative to the sinful behavior. I refer to this, in some of my materials, as the Practice Principle. Imagine trying to teach your child how to tie his shoe without the Practice Principle. Just verbally walking him through that process is not going to be enough. At some point, you are going to have to stop that verbal training—physically demonstrate how it is done and, then, require him to practice it on his own.
I look at it like: “If the Practice Principle is vital for teaching such morally-neutral tasks as tying shoes, how much more important is it for training children in Christ-like character?” You know, that goes for anything—we hear: “Practice makes perfect.”
Bob: Now, again, the behavior is one side. You want to get to their heart—
Bob: —but when they can instinctively respond with the right behavior, now, you’re halfway to the heart. Now, you’ve got to make sure God’s doing a work in their heart—you’re not just correcting behavior—but there’s resentment/bitterness hidden behind that?
Ginger: That is where the heart-probing questions come in. You know, if you think about it, in a lot of the stories in Scripture, when someone did something wrong, Jesus didn’t point His finger in their face and say: “This is what you did wrong!” and “This is what you should have done instead.” Jesus often used heart-probing questions.
Bob: I have a friend, who—
Dave: Oh, is this one of those “I have a friend,” Bob? [Laughter] Or is this you?
Bob: This is a real friend, who—
Bob: —he and his wife had become foster parents first and, then, had adopted two kids out of the foster system. When they adopted their kids, they were four and six years old. What he soon realized, with these kids, is that lying had become a coping skill for these kids. It’s how they learned to survive, growing up in a very dysfunctional environment.
He said, “Here we had two boys, who lied easily and without any remorse for what they had done; because, in their mind, this is just how you survive.” He tried everything he knew, as a parent, to get down and say: “Did you do this? I won’t be mad if you tell me the truth,” and all of these things. The kid would just lie—
Bob: —with no remorse. You couldn’t spot the lie at all. You’d wind up, as a parent, thinking, “Do I really know—am I wrongly accusing my child, even though the evidence is right there?”
What do you do with kids when you suspect that they are lying or when you catch them in a lie? How do you deal with that tongue issue?
Ginger: Well, I do think that’s two separate issues right there. I think that if you are not 100 percent certain that they are lying, it’s better to err on the side of mercy—
Ginger: —because it can be very discouraging to accuse a child of lying when, in fact, he’s telling the truth. He could start feeling like—that Mom or Dad view him with this ongoing suspicious expectation of him lying; so we want to encourage them to walk in truth and also not label them a liar, which—that is another thing.
If we do know, 100 percent certain, that the child did tell a lie, we want to address the fact that they lied and not call them a liar; because if you call them a liar, you are labeling them a liar.
Ann: You’re making that their identity.
Ginger: That’s right. We want to encourage them to live in the forgiveness and the atonement of God and not label them a liar.
I remember Alex telling a lie one time when she was probably—I don’t know—four or five years old. One of her favorite things to do was to play dress up. She would dress up; and she would always like to involve our little Yorkie, Mickey. She had this little tutu-thing that she would put on him and dress him up too. One thing that Alex was not allowed to do—and that was to get into my makeup—so when Mickey comes prancing into the kitchen with lipstick on, our little Yorkie, it wasn’t very hard to determine who was behind it. [Laughter]
But when I asked Alex how it was that Mickey came to have rosewood lips?—she very quickly responded, “Doug did it”; okay? Let me tell you who Doug is. Doug is this caped action figure that came in a kid’s meal. [Laughter] So, I said, “Alex; okay; so did you and Doug, maybe, go into the bathroom and get my makeup bag; and you helped Doug get the lipstick out?”
Ann: I like that you included Doug in it!
Ginger: Yes; yes. I said, “Did you help Doug get the lipstick out and help Doug put it on Mickey?” She said: “Nope! Doug did it all by himself.”
Ginger: So, now, I do something that rarely works with small kids. I tried to reason with her—I said: “Alex, Doug is not capable of going into the bathroom, opening my makeup case, getting the lipstick out, and putting it on Mickey. He’s not capable of doing it.” Do you want to know what she said? “Oh, yes, he is; because I put batteries in Doug.” [Laughter]
Ann: Wow! She’s good!
Dave: One lie—
Ann: Oh, wow.
Ginger: —very good; but again, I did not want to label her a liar. I wanted her to see herself through God’s eye and who she is in Christ. So, I said, “Alex, honey,”—I said—“you told a lie, but you are not a liar. That is not who you are. You are a forgiven child of God; and because of God’s grace, you can walk in truth.” That’s how I addressed it with her.
Then she—it took her a little while to come clean, because she didn’t want to have any consequences. Consequences are not fun; but I tell you, when she finally did come clean, you could just see the weight—even though there was a consequence—just that weight lift off of her. It was like she was thankful for there to be a consequence and, then, to have that clean slate.
Bob: Do you see lying at a different level of tongue offense than whining, or bickering, or other things? I mean, the Bible seems to indicate—I’m thinking of the passage in Proverbs that says—
Bob: —“…things God hates.” A lying tongue is one of the things God hates.
Ginger: One of the seven things God hates.
Bob: Yes; right.
Ginger: That’s pretty powerful—one of the seven things God hates; right. We do want to talk about that with our kids and talk about why God hates a lying tongue.
We want to talk to our children about who is the father of lies and who is the Father of Truth: “You know, sweetie, when you tell a lie, you are pleasing the father of lies and obeying the father of lies; but when you speak truth, you are honoring and pleasing the Father of Truth, who is God. Who do you want to please? Do you want to please Satan, or do you want to please God? We know that it’s going to go much better for us when we live in ways that are honoring to God.”
Also, while pleasing and honoring God are reasons enough to speak truth, we also want to help our children understand the relational consequences of lying. The foundation of the family relationship is built on trust; and when that trust is violated, the foundation of that relationship crumbles. Honesty is the glue that holds a family together; and that’s why Paul told us, “Do not lie to each other.” It is a huge offense that really brings down some very strong consequences.
Bob: Nine times out of ten, when a child is caught in a lie, you have two issues; because they are usually lying to cover up some other act of disobedience. So, now, you have the lipstick on the dog, which is offense number one, and the lie about what they did, which is offense number two. Does that mean double consequences? Does that mean that you amp up the correction and the discipline because they did two things wrong and not just one?
Ginger: I would probably handle it all the same way. I didn’t say, “You’re going to have a consequence for this and a consequence for that.” I also think that, sometimes, parents are quick to overdo consequences.
Ann: I was going to ask that about consequences. Can you talk about—what are some of the consequences you’ve had for your kids?
Ginger: Well, when my kids were little, you know, the Bible is very clear that the rod of discipline imparts wisdom. So, when my children were younger, I did feel like the most effective consequence was a spanking administered very gently, very lovingly, and with self-control.
Bob: And let me just interrupt you long enough to say, “There is a difference between a wrong kind of spanking and right kind of spanking.” We’re not talking about abuse.
Bob: We’re not talking about leaving marks on a kid. We’re talking about how to use gentle swats—
Bob: —as a way to correct a child. We’ve got an excerpt from the Art of Parenting® video series that we’ve done, where you guys talk about—I remember, Ann—you talking about the spoon and how you’d pull it out and just—
Ann: The little wooden one; yes.
Bob: —just seeing the tip of the spoon was enough, sometimes, to cause kids to correct their behavior. So, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you want to see the video.
Ann: And even one of the things that I did—I would have them go and sit in their room on a chair for a little bit, waiting for me; because I needed to cool down. [Laughter]
Ginger: Right. Yes; sometimes, we need—
Ginger: —to take a few minutes to make sure our hearts are right.
Ann: Exactly; I didn’t want to do it out of anger. I didn’t want to just swat them. So, sometimes, I would say, “Run in the other room.” [Laughter]
Ginger: Right; and “Hurry!”
Ann: Yes; and just that sitting there sometimes—sometimes, I wouldn’t even spank them; because their heart’s were already broken, and repentant, and sorry.
Ann: So, there wasn’t a need to do that. Okay; so you used that when they were—
Ginger: I did. You know, also, I feel like that’s effective when they’re little if it can be done the right way. Now, there are parents that I have actually encouraged to not spank their children; because they struggle so much with anger, and they are not able to do it in self-control. It is better to not use that as a consequence if you can’t do it the way that God intended it to be done, which with self-control, love, and gentleness.
So, other consequences, too—we can always use logical consequences. I remember Wes leaving his bike outside. You know, some parents might be tempted to say, “Okay; well, you left your bike out; and you weren’t supposed to. No riding your bike for a month,” or “No TV for two months,”—you know, that’s exasperating; that’s overdoing it.
To me, a logical consequence was: “You were not responsible with it, so you lose the freedom to enjoy it tomorrow.” Then it’s over; it’s done. It’s not this thing that just goes on, and on, and on.
Bob: And your point is great—to the extent you can use the natural consequences—
Bob: —of the behavior—
Bob: —so that it’s not, “You did this; and now, you’ve got to go rake leaves for three weeks”—right?—
Bob: —which may have nothing to do with the behavior—but: “Here’s what you did; you did not show responsibility for this, so we’re going to lose that for a week.” Tie the correction to the infraction, and that’ll help drive the point home.
Ginger: Exactly. “You didn’t do your homework. I told you to be finished with your homework by seven o’clock; and you didn’t, so you lose the freedom to watch a show tonight.”
Dave: Hey, I’d like to ask you about one of those other categories you hit in the book. We don’t have a lot of time, but I want to hear your heart on gossip—
Dave: —because I think it’s a big deal in the church/—
Ginger: It is.
Dave: But in the church, it’s really interesting how we can gossip about people in a spiritual way; but when your kids do it, and you see it, how do you get at the core of that?—because now, we’re talking about somebody; and that can be inflammatory with your tongue.
Ginger: Right; and that could go back to the delighting in someone else’s suffering; you know? “Instead of talking about this and spreading this information about this person, what could you do to encourage this person? How could you go and be a loving friend, that speaks truth and says things that benefits the person that is listening?”
Bob: Think about it: “Why do we gossip? We gossip so that we look like we’re in the know, and we know what’s going on.” More often than not, if I am gossiping, it’s because I want you to know I’m an insider; and I know what’s going on in everybody’s life.
Dave: And—and think about this—it’s the core of the sin of judgment: “I’m above you. I’m better than you, and I’m going to judge you and then talk about you.” There it is—it’s the blatant sin.
Dave: Here it is—it’s really easy to see it in our kids—
Ginger: Right; yes.
Dave: —and not look in the mirror and go, “I wonder where they are picking that up?”—from Mom and Dad. I mean, it’s something that—man, you just want to nail.
Ginger: Right; right.
Dave: I mean, that’s why your book is so helpful—I Can’t Believe You [Just] Said That!—it’s like, “I can’t believe I said that.”
Ann: That’s good.
Dave: You know, I’ve got to catch myself and say, “Okay; let’s look in my own heart and model something that I’m trying to train my kids to do.”
Bob: You started by saying that the title of this book, I Can’t Believe You Just Said That!, is something Ann said to you many times; right? [Laughter] So, I’m thinking, maybe, “Ann, get a copy of the book—
Ann: Oh, that is a very good idea.
Bob: —“and go through it chapter by chapter with Dave.” [Laughter]
Dave: That would be good. I was going to say, “Not going to happen,” but that actually would be really good.
Ann: I think one of the things I would encourage parents is—those, who are thinking, “It’s too late; you know, I didn’t start out doing this,”—is it every too late?
Ginger: It is never too late to start training our children in the Word of God. God’s Word never returns void, no matter when we start using it. My parents did not become Christians until I was 18 years old, so I was not raised in church.
I didn’t know anything about God or the Bible, and my daddy—he started—he immediately just fell so in love with the Lord and just wanted so badly for his children to love the Lord too. He came into my room one night. He’d only been a Christian about three months, and he was crying.
It was the first time—I’d never seen my daddy cry before—ever. He was crying; and he said, “I need to ask your forgiveness.” He said—I was very spoiled—he said, “I have tried to win your heart by giving you everything that you’ve ever wanted; but I’ve left out the most important thing in our lives, and that’s Jesus Christ.” He asked me to forgive him. At first, I rebelled; because, honestly, I didn’t like seeing my daddy cry. I didn’t like the God that was making my daddy feel like a failure, so I wrapped my arm around him; and I assured him he had not been a failure, and he did not need to ask my forgiveness because he’d been the absolute best daddy in the world.
As the weeks went on, he sort of adopted a verse in the Bible as our family theme, which is: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” For the first time in my life, he began to put consequences on me. He was teaching me the Word of God, in love, and trying to teach me what was right; but when he started putting those consequences on me, as an 18-year-old who was not used to that, I completely rebelled.
I actually left home my senior year of high school. I was 19, and I was gone for about three months. My parents just kept praying. One night—I’d been moved out for about three months—and my parents were really at their wits end; because they were very tempted to call me and say: “You know, you can come back home. You don’t have to go to church. You don’t have to follow our rules. You don’t have to obey.”
One night, it was after midnight, and I was asleep at my friend’s house; and I just woke up, and I thought, “What am I running from?” It just so happened that that night was the night that my parents had their biggest struggle with calling me. They got on their knees in the living room after midnight; and Daddy read that verse from the Bible that says, “God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.” He said, “This just feels like a temptation more than we can bear.”
As they prayed, God’s peace just washed over them that He was going to take care of this; and they needed to continue to be faithful in teaching me about His ways. It was, at that moment, that they were getting up from that prayer that I came charging through the front door. It was about one a.m. by that time. I just said, “You know what?” I said: “You guys can chain me to my bed in my bedroom, because I’m going to obey. I’m going to do what you tell me to do, because I want what you’ve got.” I said—I looked at my daddy and I said, “Daddy, I want to be a Christian.” I said, “But I don’t know how.”
There was no teenager more rebellious me—I was into everything—and God won my heart through the obedience and the faithfulness of my parents. I was 18, so it is never too late. So, these parents that are listening, that have these young kids and even teenagers, “Don’t be beating yourself up, saying, ‘It’s too late. I’ve already blown it up; I’ve already done everything wrong.’” When I was parenting my kids, Galatians 6:9 was my favorite verse—it says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” That was my life verse for parenting.
Bob: Easy to get weary, as a mom. Ginger, thanks; thanks for being on FamilyLife Today again.
Ginger: Thank you.
Bob: Thanks for writing the book, I Can’t Believe You Just Said That! We’ve got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, and our listeners are invited to get their copy. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and we’ll have a copy of the book sent to you; or you can order by phone: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Again, the book is called I Can’t Believe You Just Said That!: Biblical Wisdom for Taming Your Child’s Tongue by Ginger Hubbard. Order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
We didn’t mention this earlier; but I know it was kind of fun for David Robbins, the President of FamilyLife®, who is here with us—kind of fun for you to get to connect with Ginger, because you and Meg have borrowed from her for a number of years; right?
David: Absolutely. Some of her resources have been incredibly helpful, especially in that two-year-old to eight-year-old time frame, when you just, sometimes, don’t know what to do; and you’re pulling your hair out. Some of her instruction to get to the sin behind the sin has been really helpful.
But it was giving me flashbacks, listening to her in studio, to being in our small New York apartment and being in our bathroom, having a discipline session and trying to get to what really is going on and not just the outward behavior. The kids would leave. In exhaustion—a little bit from the conversation—I would just sit there, in the bathroom; and it would always go to my own heart and “What is the root of things going on in my own heart from the outward sin?”—some of the honest questions like: “Why do I tailor my behavior and my words, when I’m outside these walls of my apartment, to make people think I’m a better parent than I am? What’s the root of that? What’s really going on?”
I just think we need to realize that—as we are at work teaching, and disciplining, and discipling our kids—God is at work teaching, disciplining, and discipling us. Whether it’s our own growth or whether it is our kids, it is a challenging process.
David: It’s a prayerful process, but it’s always worth the time and effort to go beneath the surface.
Bob: Dennis Rainey always liked to say, “God gave us kids to finish the work of growing us up.” [Laughter] I think that’s what you are saying.
David: I’m in the thick of it now, and I believe it; yes. [Laughter]
Bob: Thank you, David.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from a young woman, who received devastating news when she was 18 years old. It was the first time a doctor told her that she would be unable to bear children, biologically. She was born without a uterus. Chelsea Sobolik shares her story, tomorrow, with Kim Anthony; and we’ll have that for you. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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