‘Choice’ Words

by Dr. Leslie (Jack) Fyans

Our child attends a Lutheran prekindergarten. We were dismayed when he came home with some words we don’t approve of. Before this year, he didn’t have a lot of interaction with other children, so this is a new experience for us. Do we talk to the teacher? Reprimand our son? Complain to the pastor?

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Having gone through the anxiety of placing your son in a new environment for part of the day, you now face a situation you may never have expected in a Christian school. You might be wondering whether the pains you took to provide a caring and respectful environment were for nothing. Take heart. Your son is not the first, nor will he be the last, to come home with “choice” words. The fact that you are asking advice about what to do suggests you have not overreacted, and for that I congratulate you.

Focusing too much on the behavior might be a cue for your son to think that these new words are interesting, and therefore, deserve more attention. Punishing him may send the message that his natural curiosity is “bad.” Calmly tell him in a way he can understand that the words are inappropriate, and that you don’t use them in your home.

When your son says and does things that are inappropriate, write them on slips of paper and place them in a shoebox labeled as such. This can be a helpful visual and tactile tool for him during this learning stage, when concrete aides are effective. Your role for now is as a coach of good behavior, not as an evaluative judge. By being clear about your expectations, you are helping draw family boundaries that will serve as a pattern for choices he will face throughout his life.

These and other measured and caring responses also teach your son the Christlike behavior that the most effective witness to the world is not harsh judgment but faithful adherence to Christian values.

Indeed, you should speak with your child’s teacher. If you have reason to believe that cursing or other unchristian behavior is more widespread, a conversation with the school principal, and perhaps the pastor, might be appropriate. This is a wonderful opportunity to educate school leaders about the tone you try to set at home. In this way, you enlist their support and hold open the door for them to continue being your allies in that effort.

About the Author: Dr. Leslie (Jack) Fyans is a clinical psychologist and member of the Ministerial Health Committee of the LCMS Central Illinois District.

Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address. 

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