The Bible warns that the tongue is a small organ, yet it boasts of many things and can be a deadly poison. For most people, controlling the tongue comes down to what they should not say, but it is also important to focus on what to say and when. Parents have a responsibility to teach teens how to coexist with others in society, which is largely affected by how they relate with people through speech. Several lessons can be used to teach teens how to tame their tongues.
According to Matthew 12:36, for every idle word people speak, they will give an account for it on the day of judgment. The words we speak can either light or quench a fire. In this lesson, teach your teen how to use words to stop a gossip fire. He can do this by refusing to listen to any ill-intended conversations, or saying something that will change the tone of a conversation. In this lesson, get a group of teens and let them play a game where you say something very mean about someone. For example, “I heard your teacher was caught shop lifting”. The first person who comes up with a response that quenches the gossip is awarded a candy. The person with most candies is the winner.
According to the University of Missouri, we only retain 25 percent of what we hear after a 48-hour period. Using visual illustrations can help teens remember a lesson for longer. A good activity to teach about taming the tongue is using toothpaste. Using a toothpaste tube, explain that the content in the tube is his words. Squeeze the paste on a table in a way that creates a mess. Explain that when hurtful words come out of his mouth, he hurts the people he is speaking about. Also, just like the toothpaste, once the words are out, explain that he cannot take them back.
Another way to teach your teen about taming his tongue is discussing questions. For example, you can read James 3:1-12 which talks about the tongue, and draw questions from the context. You can ask what are the three images James uses to illustrate the tongue -- sparks, rudder and bits. The second question can be what these things have in common, which is the fact that they are all small but control or start big things. Explain that the tongue, though a small organ, can influence and destroy big things, such as a family and even a country.
Having an accountability partner ensures that people have someone to remind them about commitments they have made. Make a “gossip board” for your teen, and let the rest of the family be his accountability partners. Any time he says something mean-spirited about someone, let the person who heard it record it on the board. Resist the urge to criticize your teen, and, instead, make the activity fun. If he surpasses a given period of time without any recordings, buy him a gift or find other reward ideas. You can also buy him a watch or band with a message about the tongue. Each time he looks at the watch or band, he will be reminded that his words need to stay positive.