We have been having a very hard time with DS2 matching his vocal tone with his actual feelings. He is pretty uninhibited about what he will say and he will often say even innocuous items in a very harsh tone. This can grate on one's soul far quicker than one would expect. So we decided to play a game with him. Everyone was given Jenga blocks and the rule was that if you made a positive comment in a positive voice, you could add a block. If you made a neutral comment in a neutral voice, you would neither add nor subtract. If you used a harsh voice or said something mean, then you would remove a block. A rule was made that no negative comments could be made about family members. A rule we should have made but did not was that when you remove a block it has to be at least two layers down. We also practiced a round of each type before we started the game.
The game took a little guidance to make sure that we had a good balance of taking and giving. Eventually as planned the building will crash or look very, very unstable. This is the time to discuss how the building is like a family and when we make negative comments it weakens the entire structure and sometimes while we may not mean to strike a very hurtful blow, we may unintentionally do so. There is no way to know how people "hear" your comments.
Interestingly, in our game, DS2 started using his extra blocks to create a second free-form building. I did not ask him to stop and when we ran short of blocks he did hand over blocks for us to use. Then I had asked him not to cause the building to fall over so that we could talk for a second, he chose to be a little crazy and not only did our building fall but also so did his. This was a fascinating opportunity to correlate his wants and desires to the success of the whole family and how not listening can also affect both. You could see immediately in his face that he saw exactly what we were saying. I tried to my best ability to put the "family" building back together the way it was before it crumbled and then we discussed the concept mentioned above about how we may think our hurtful comments are only minor but can be accepted by the other person as very, very hurtful. We then talked about strengthening the building and filling in the holes with positive comments to create a very strong structure.
I would like to figure out how too play other games like this to work on this skill, but I must say it has had a bit of an effect. It is an area we must continue to work on, but another positive step is taken.
Note: DH and I did this with DS2, I did not have the other kids join in as I think it would be too difficult to control the comments made.