Secret 4: Respect

“Let all . . . screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.”​—Ephesians 4:31.

What this means. Both troubled and successful families have disagreements. But successful families discuss matters without resorting to sarcasm, insults, and other forms of abusive speech. Family members treat one another as they themselves would like to be treated.​—Matthew 7:12.

Why it matters. Words can become weapons producing devastating effects. A Bible proverb says: “It is better to be living in a waste land, than with a bitter-tongued and angry woman.” (Proverbs 21:19, The Bible in Basic English) Of course, the same could be said of a bitter-tongued man. And when it comes to parenting, the Bible states: “Do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Colossians 3:21) Children who are constantly criticized may come to feel that it is impossible to please their parents. They may even give up trying.

Try this exercise. Rate the level of respect in your family by answering the following questions.

In my family, do disagreements usually end with one person storming out of the room?

When I speak to my spouse or children, do I resort to using insulting words, such as “stupid,” “idiot,” or something similar?

Was I raised in an atmosphere in which abusive speech was common?

Make a resolve. Think of one or two goals you could set with regard to showing respect in your speech. (Idea: Resolve to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, “I feel hurt when you . . . ,” rather than “You are always . . .”)

Why not let your spouse know of your goal(s)? In three months, check with your spouse to see how you have progressed.

Think of some limits you can set so that you do not use abusive speech when communicating with your children.

Why not apologize to your children for times when you may have spoken to them harshly or sarcastically?

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Just as ocean waves can erode solid rock, a pattern of hurtful speech can weaken a family