We’re all familiar with the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

And we all know that’s not true at all.

Words can cut deeply, and gossip can destroy relationships and reputations. So, how do we keep our kids from gossiping about others? Here are some basic things you should have your kids ask themselves to help them use the power of words for good.

1. Is it true? Before you repeat anything about someone else either in person, in writing or via technology, make absolutely sure it’s true. If it’s something you heard from someone else, verify first.

2. Is it fair? In other words, it is something you’d want repeated about yourself if it were true? If not, keep it to yourself.

3. Is it kind? Will this build someone up and show him or her in a positive light to others? If so, and you answered “yes” to the first two questions — share away! If not, silence is the better course of action (in other words, remember the old adage “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all").

4. Is it necessary? Emphasize to your kids that they must immediately tell you or a trusted adult if they hear directly or indirectly about someone threatening harm of any kind to self or others — no exceptions. Practice with them so they know who they’ll contact and what they’ll say, and remind them that safety always is first. If they’re telling an adult to keep someone or get someone out of trouble, they’re not snitching or gossiping; they’re doing the right thing.

Kids learn from what you do as much as what you say. Speak kindly to and about others in front of your kids, and praise them when they do the same. Throughout your son or daughter’s childhood — and especially during those formative years — it is important to talk honestly and openly about the many wonderful differences that make everyone unique.

To get more information about raising kids to be kind to others, visit www.boystown.org.

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Laura Holmes Buddenberg joined Father Flanagan's Boys' Home in January 2000. As a training manager at Boys Town, Buddenberg works as an administrator, writer and trainer, specializing in teen dating and relationships, media awareness, family spirituality, abuse and other issues affecting today's families.

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