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Busting Putdowns


This simple balloon trick increases preteens' sensitivity to the consequences of hurtful words.

You'll need two balloons and a needle. Inflate one balloon ("Ballon Bill") and draw a comical, ugly face on it, then let the air out. Inflate the second balloon ("Latex Larry"), draw another comical, ugly face, and tie it off.

Inflate the deflated balloon and pinch it off to keep it inflated. Then invite kids to talk about Balloon Bill. Each time kids say something negative, allow a bit of air to seep out of Bill until all his air is gone. Next, concealing the needle, pick up Latex Larry and invite kids to describe him. This time, though, as soon as someone says the first negative word, pop the balloon.

Say: Sometimes negative words slowly tear down a person's self-esteem until he or she is completely deflated and feels very bad. We can build the person back up, but it takes positive words and genuine care-things we can give to all people. Sometimes, though, one mean word can hurt a person forever.

Ask: How can we use our words to build up others?

Challenge kids to think of one person at school or in their neighborhood who could use positive words, and have them focus on building up that person during the week. Ask for reports the next week.

Alan Hines
Smyrna, Delaware

Excerpted from Children's Ministry Magazine. Subscribe now!

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