The Toothpaste Lesson


Adults are so focused on giving children a “childhood” they’ve forgotten to teach children how to be adults.”

Noah Heter (my husband)

The toothpaste lesson is sure to get plenty of “thumbs down” and dislikes. I’m expecting to be called a “mean mom”. But that’s ok. I know this might upset some but it was an incredibly effective tool.

We anticipated this activity would make my middle son cry.  We didn’t want him to cry but knew his fiery personality would react strongly against the lesson.

The Toothpaste Lesson

The toothpaste lesson is messy and perfect for any age group.   We did this with our 5, 3, and 2yo sons.  It involves giving them each an entire tube of toothpaste and asking them to squeeze out the entire contents.  Our boys LOVED this hands-on activity and the mess it created.

Then we told them… “put it all back“.

The looks on their faces were hilarious.  They were understandably confused.  My husband then increased the tension in the room by saying, “Whoever can put ALL the toothpaste back in 2 minutes gets this entire jar of gummy dinosaurs.” 

Of course, each boy tried various (hilarious) techniques.  Smearing it around to try and hide the toothpaste, blowing it back inside and scooping.  Once the timer was up, my husband explained how WORDS are like toothpaste. You can’t ever put them back.  You have to be careful with words because once they are out….. it’s forever.

The Power of Words

As you can see in the video, there are a range of emotions.  Excitement, confusion, frustration, anger, contemplation and back to excitement.

Since doing the toothpaste lesson, I’ve heard my oldest son say twice, “Is that being careful with your words like toothpaste?”   He got it.  At least for a quick moment.  He’s 5 years old and learns well with direct and tangible activities or consequences.  

The last few weeks my boys struggled particularly with “kind words” (thus the specific family night.)  Their words have been harsh, unkind and purposely hurtful to each other.  To be honest?  Sometimes they sound like…. their mother.   ????

I regret SO many words I speak to my children through out the day.  Teaching them about kind words is convicting and highlights my own shortcomings.  Since this family night, I’ve said incredibly foolish things to my children.   Often times. it’s crushing to hear the words come out of my own face.   It’s humbling to apologize and remind them Mommy needs to be “careful about toothpaste too”.

I can’t take credit for this brilliant idea.  We use the “Family Night Tool Chest” for ideas and inspiration.  It’s such an amazing book that gives practical and fun ways to teach integrity and character.

What about you?

What about you?  What tools or activities have you done with your kids (or personally) to encourage verbal self-discipline.  I think many adults could use some help here. Don’t you?  A little self-restraint with words goes a LONG WAY.   You can’t ever take hurtful or careless words back.  

An Introduction To Family Nights: Family Nights Tool Chest (A Heritage Builders Book : Family Night Tool Chest Book 1)


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