My storytelling trance was broken as I tried to excuse my slip. As much as the word really does describe the actions of the prodigal son I knew the little girl was right in the context of children's church. Hooray to that little girl for speaking out about what her parents have taught her!
The other time this word slipped I was talking about how "stupid" sheep are. I don't remember if a little voice corrected me that time, but I do know that I cringed inside seeing some of those little eyes grow wide at the word.
Call me overly sensitive or legalistic. But I take seriously my role in these little one's lives. I know of little girls that were disappointed when I cut my hair because they were growing their hair long to match mine. I hear of little people who copy the posture of prayer I have taught for "a prayer of release" (palms raised to release distraction and accept what God has to teach) to the confusion of parents. I know that although more often I can't see it, what I say (and don't say) has an impact.
The Bible says that teacher's are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). The Bible has especially harsh things to say regarding a person who leads a child to sin (Matthew 18:6-9). The Bible also commands children to obey their parents. If by using the word "stupid" carelessly I am leading a child astray from what their parents have taught them, then will I not be held accountable if I take the conviction lightly?
So what would you do? What faux pas have you committed in teaching kids? Have you ever been called on the carpet by a child?
I know from now on I will be extra intentional to eliminate that word from my storytelling vocabulary and interactions with children in general. While I personally do not feel "stupid" is a bad word (although it will probably be discouraged as a regular piece of my someday kid's vocabulary), I will choose to die to myself in even this small way for the sake of God's beloved children whose angels see the face of our Father in heaven (Matthew 18:10).