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Inappropriate Verbal Behaviours - Live life with your kids - Issue 057
June 06, 2008
Hi there! ....

This week:

This week we have tweaked our routine to get back to the simplicity of completing our formal studies in the morning and having plenty of time in the afternoon for family life. We call this time “productive free time” which helps guide the children in making wise use of their time. I have seen the benefits of this change almost immediately. The children have found time for creative projects that they haven’t pulled out of the cupboard for a long time and they have played more games together. The afternoons have been peaceful and enjoyable. I remember the same results when we’ve done this in times past – I don’t know what made me slide away from it but it is good to be back!

Live life with my kids!



Be a Deliberate Parent
Verbal Freedoms - do we hear them?




A mother’s ears are incredible – at the same time of hearing everything we can also tune out what we don’t want to hear. Inappropriate verbal behaviour gets established in our children’s lives because we don’t hear it. It is like the electricity running through a fridge – we don’t hear it – it is background noise, but then circumstances change and we actually hear how loud it is. (like in the middle of the night – or when the fridge dies we hear what is no longer happening!)

Though there are benefits to being able to tune out to our kids it doesn’t help us in the times when our children’s noise is inappropriate as we tend not to hear until it has become an established form of communication for our children. Our children need training in how to use their voice as much as they need training in using their hands. So what do we mean by verbal freedoms?

Verbal – anything that comes out of our mouth, or the mouth of our children
Freedom – a liberty we take

There are two aspects of verbal freedoms, liberties children take in how they address their parents – there is the lack of self control issues and there is the rebellious, I’m not respecting your authority in my life kind. Children of all ages can express their feelings, desires and conversation in inappropriate ways. These expressions will change as they grow older, please don’t think this is a toddler issue, or a teenager issue – verbal freedoms is something that needs to be trained, practiced and monitored throughout life. To be honest – have you ever said something inappropriate – sure! Which just shows it is a life long discipline and we need to establish our children in good practices now.

I spent a bit of time brainstorming what constitutes a verbal freedom. I have come up with a list of around 20 different expressions. Some of them are self control issues and some of them are rebellion/heart issues. Some will be expressed by toddlers, some by teenagers. The idea of listing these is so that we can start to tune in our ears and address these things for what they are. For example

Rebellious Verbal Freedoms will look like:

  • Temper tantrum - yelling, squealing
  • Manipulation / Control - I don't love you any more!
  • Arguing, questioning, debating, negotiating, pleading

Self Control Verbal Freedoms will look like:

  • Inside / Outside voice - whispering
  • Name calling - unkind words
  • Whinging

Download the full Verbal Freedoms list at the Newsletter Download Page.


As parents we can make any issue an obedience issue once we start training in that area. I have not qualified these behaviours from that perspective but rather by considering the contexts that I think of when I think of kids practicing these things, what is the state of their heart. You will think of different contexts, different examples when you think of these things and you may decide it is a self control issue whereas I thought it was a rebellion issue. That is quite okay – the purpose is that we start to hear what is going on and to do something about it!



General overview of how to deal with verbal freedoms:
  1. Know what is appropriate in your house. (I am very aware that Josh and Jess are at a different relationship with Peter and I and therefore can joke or discuss things differently than my younger children. This needs to be clearly defined in my mind – what is appropriate for each child, what is appropriate in my family)
  2. Teach and train to the standard – be consistent
  3. Know your consequences and be diligent in applying them


General guidelines for self control verbal freedoms:
  1. Model encouraging communication each time you speak to your children
  2. Consider influences in their life, are they mimicking peers? TV characters? Etc
  3. Teach self control as a character trait – stop, think, act
  4. Address one expression at a time with consequences but discuss self control at all other times. (e.g. You may be training in the area of inside/outside voice, and have a consequence of isolation, but when your child refuses to say please/thankyou you take the verbal reminder option and encourage manners. Once you’ve got the inside/outside voice happening you can move onto verbal manners should it still be a consistent problem.)
  5. Tighten their boundaries – the idea of boundaries is to keep our children functioning to their best in accordance to their moral and developmental growth. If they act inappropriately we need to put the physical boundaries around them (often our presence in the young years) so that they can act appropriately.
    • Closer boundaries puts your children within your reach so you have plenty of opportunity throughout the day to train in the area you have earmarked
    • Closer boundaries limits their choices so they are more likely to be able to respond appropriately, giving you opportunity to praise
    • Closer boundaries avoids conflicts, or rather limits conflicts – you choose your battles
    • Closer boundaries means you deal with issues before they become established habits in your child’s life.


General guidelines for dealing with rebellious verbal freedoms:
  1. Don’t get into power play – let your word be final.
  2. Establish a pattern of giving instruction and following up that instruction
  3. Tighten boundaries (see above)
  4. Remind them of their choice – good response, bad response, happy voice, grumpy voice
  5. Deal with the first presentation of a verbal freedom every day – deal with it thoroughly so that their heart changes.
  6. Be consistent with consequences
  7. Teach the appeal process – it is important that the children don’t have this opportunity until they are characterized by first time obedience. It is paramount that the children have an obedient/respect attitude before they start appealing your instructions, otherwise we establish pattern of negotiating that appears legitimate to the children.


These expressions of communication are learned behaviour – the reason the children practice them is because they work! It doesn’t take them long to realize that when they go on and on at us we will cave in. Or if we get frustrated enough we will give them our full attention. It works – else they wouldn’t use it!



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Until next week
Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!


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