Teaching children about the words they use

By Renee Ruffin-Price

I needed a creative way to help my grands understand why the words they sometimes use in a moment of reacting versus taking time to think before speaking, can have a negative impact, even when that is not their intent. I found examples of a social skills activity called “Cotton or Sandpaper Words”. This was just what I needed because a hands on lesson is usually more effective than just words that end up sounding like “blah, blah, blah…”! I found a list of examples that included sentences that I’ve heard the preteens/teens that I’ve worked with often use, and then they would wonder why the situation went from sweet to sour. So before doing the hands on part of the activity, I read a few of the sentences to get my grands’ “pre” opinions of what they considered to be “cotton” versus “sandpaper” words. When I had them feel a soft quiet cotton ball and then rub a noisy rough piece of sandpaper, this step almost became an experiment situation because their comments were similar to what they would ask in a science class at school. I then restated the same sentences as before, and although some of their decisions were the same as before, they seemed to have a better understanding of WHY they should take a brief moment before speaking. The overall goal was for my grands to recognize that the words they use with their peers or adults should be intentional and have more of a cotton “feel” than sandpaper. However, there will be occasions when “assertive words”, are necessary.   

Article submitted to Al Dia Today on January 31, 2023, for the February issue by Renee’ Ruffin-Price, Community Advocate for Children