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The Thumper Policy: If you Can't Say Anything Nice….

I never thought I’d say this, but I sound just like my mother! No one wants to sound just like their mother! Don’t get my wrong, I love my mom; she is one of the most amazing women I know, but lets be honest; no one wants to sound just like their mom when it comes to disciplining your own kids! You remember that tone, you remember that punishment, and you hated it! You swore you’d never do it yourself. But there comes a time when you just can’t handle the fighting any more, and out it comes, and you stop dead in your tracks and go, “Oh CRAP! I sound JUST like my Mother!”

That happened to me just 2 weeks ago! The bickering and fighting, and rudeness between my kids was just way out of hand. I just didn’t know what to do any more. It seemed every time they opened their mouth to talk, it was fighting, yelling or sassing each other, the Husband or myself!

It wore on my nerves, on the Husband’s nerves, and everyone in the house was miserable and there was always a lot of yelling to stop fighting. I just couldn’t take it any longer.

One day it was extremely bad. There seriously wasn’t a time that sound was coming out of either boy’s mouth that wasn’t a mean, hurtful, sassy, or downright disrespectful comment. I lost it and said,

“THAT’S IT! If you can’t say Anything NICE; Don’t Say ANYTHING at ALL!”

First, my boys were rather shocked at my outburst and loss of cool. Second, they have never seen Bambi; so they had no idea where that phrase was coming from. But I remember it, as Bambi was my favorite movie as a little girl. I remember my mother saying the exact same thing to me and my siblings growing up.

And you know what? It’s such a great motto to have!

It took a bit of enforcing. My boys thought I was just “kidding” I guess, because they immediately went back to fighting, to which I said,

“No! I’m serious. If what you are about to say isn’t nice, then keep your mouth shut and don’t say it! there will be NO talking! ZERO sounds unless it is something nice!”

They must have thought mommy was being funny, because they turned their back on me and started up again. So, they got to see that mommy  and daddy wasn’t joking. The Husband was furious at their disrespect and all of their toys were taken out of their rooms, the game room locked and they lost all video games. THEN they realized Mommy and Daddy weren’t joking.

That Monday night we had a family counsel. We sat down and talked about how it hurts each other, themselves and our family when all everyone does is fight. I asked them:

  • Are you Happy with our family right now? 
  • Do you like fighting?
  • How do you feel when someone says ____ to you? 
  • How do you feel when you do _____ to your brother?
  • Do you like it when Mommy and Daddy are always  upset because you are fighting? 
  • Do you think the way you talk makes Jesus happy? 
  • Do you think the way you talk makes Satan happy? 
  • Who would you rather make happy?

Then we talked about how we need to love and respect each other in the house. We need to always say please and thank you, always use a kind tone in our voice when we ask for things, or reply to comments. We need to never throw tantrums when Mommy and Daddy ask you to help with your chores. It is important to never sass Mommy and Daddy, no back talking and no rude comments or basically acting like a teenager.

Then we talked again about that phrase I used 2 days earlier. “If you can’t say anything Nice, don’t say anything at all.” We adopted it as a new rule into our family. We informed our boys that if they can go 2 weeks being nice to each other and to Mommy and Daddy, that they would be able to earn a few privileges back. Slowly they will earn a few toys back, then the use of the game room again, and lastly the video games.

I remind them every time their tones get a little on edge or they are about to start fighting (if you are a mom, you KNOW the signs when it’s about to start)

I jump in and say, “is it nice?”
You know the comment wasn’t going to be nice when they go silent and hang their head.
Then I give them a little reminder, “then don’t say it. Remember to speak nicely to each other, and BE nice”

Mommy and Daddy have been working on this too. We’ve been trying to be better examples of using Please and Thank you more often. I grew up that when Mom asked you to do something, you just did it out of respect. She didn’t have to say “please”. Although she never commanded us either. I guess I was doing the same thing. I was asking for help, in a nice way, but without the please. So I’ve been working on doing better at that. Always using Please and thank you when I ask and get help. And I’ve seen a difference in my boys already.

Slowly but surely the tables have started to turn and our house is calming down and becoming much happier and nicer. The Fighting is much more mellow. I still have to remind them every once in awhile

“If you can’t say anything nice….”

And then I wait for them to finish it, to be sure they understand.
I did have to talk to the 8 year old today about not tattling for the sole purpose of getting the younger brother in trouble. I explained, if the event was something serious, then yes, I want him to tell me, but if he’s just telling me so he can get his brother in trouble, then that is not nice. I asked how he would feel if his brother did that to him, to which he said, “I’d feel bad”. So I said, “then don’t do it to him.” We’ll see how it goes.

But overall; things are getting much better, and soon my boys will be able to earn their first privilege back.

But this whole ordeal got me thinking. Do we, as adults, use the same philosophy in our adult lives?

When we get together to “gossip” are we really living by example to our kids?

That old saying, “Sticks and Stone can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is quite false! I know we’d like to believe we are strong enough that it could be accurate, but words are more powerful and hurtful than a mighty sword. When we talk with mean and harsh tones, we are hurting not only the person we are talking about, but also ourselves, because that is what we allow ourselves to focus on, instead of positive things. We allow our hearts to be tainted by bitterness.

If we can be so bold as to require our children to not speak if it’s not nice, then do we not also have to live by the same standard?

How different would our adult interactions be if when we speak, we only spoke nicely to and about others?

How would YOUR life be different?

I think it is our job to first lead by example for our children. If we can’t uphold a value, how can we expect our children to? The Husband and I are worki
ng hard to be more diligent in this area. Yes, we are human and make mistakes, but we are trying. When our children see us trying, they have a role model to follow and pattern after and it becomes easier for them.

But back to my original thought:

 How do you manage bickering and fighting Children?

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