James 3:5 - Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and we have been doing some fun little things around here to enjoy this time of year. However, something else had been creeping up more and more in my house, as well. Something ugly, horrible, nasty....
My children have, sadly, taken to being rude, mean, name-calling, you name it, it's happened, with each other. Not always, and they are still children, but they were using their tongues (mouths) to cut each other down and hurt each other's feelings more and more.
I don't expect them to be perfect - but I knew something had to change. So we got to the heart of the matter.
We read a few verses about the tongue in the Bible (Proverbs 15:4, Proverbs 31:26 etc.) Then I used an idea that I found online a long time ago, and couldn't tell you where I first saw it. I cut out a large heart from construction paper. We all took turns saying different things that were mean, and each time someone said something, the heart got a fold. Oh how quickly those things were thought of! Then, when I couldn't fold it anymore, we talked about the opposite of those things. Then, we took a couple rounds around the table, thinking of nice things. How sad it was that those were a little harder to think of! Then, when the heart was unfolded, the heart was laid out on the table.
I asked the kids if the heart was the same heart we started with. They all answered "Yes!". I asked them if it was the same shape, and they gave the same answer. Then, I asked them if it looked the same. They all pointed out that it didn't look the same anymore. They pointed out that it was bent and wrinkled. I gave them each a chance to try and make it smooth again, and everyone tried, to no avail. We talked about how we can't go back and 'not say' what we have already said, and we can't take those words back after they are said. I told them that what you say ALWAYS leaves it's mark. People will never be the same again after what you say to them.
Then I showed them their new mailboxes.
*I found these at Target, in the dollar spot!*
What you don't see is the other side of the boxes, where they each have a child's name on them. I placed these boxes on one of the shelves in our school room, where the kids can reach them fairly easily. Beside them is a stack of small blank paper. I told them the rules for the boxes are as follows:
1) The boxes are for nice notes!
2) The notes placed in the boxes are to be in secret - you have to put them in without the person seeing you!
3) No one is ever to play a mean trick on someone, or put a mean note, in the boxes.
I told them that the goal was to find something nice to say about each other, and leave them a note in their box. Or, if they want to encourage each other, or they have gotten in a fight and want to give an extra apology, leave them a note. Once they wrote their note out (or had help, if they are smaller), find the right person's mailbox and slide the note in - without getting caught!
Educationally, the benefits are:
Even more so, the encouragement to love and use kind words is overwhelmingly apparent! We have been doing this for two days as of today, and this morning Bug was telling me "how much nicer it is to say nice words than mean words!", as she finished delivering a note to one of her sisters. There is only one con among all these pros - they are so busy writing notes and checking their boxes, they are often doing that in between each work, or getting distracted from their work to do so. Although I encourage them to wait until they are done with their work, I hope this doesn't end! :)
There have been a lot of flags flying at this house!
This has been a nice little addition to all the Valentine's fun, and I pray it lasts much longer than a couple weeks in February!