Love in Action: Cut the Criticism

Love in Action: Cut the Criticism

There are two posts left in our Love in Action series. I hope you are trying to make the simple actions from previous days a habit in your life.

Love in Action Day 13

I confess, this action is not simple.  There.  I said it.  Let’s do it anyway!

Cut the criticism.

I will never, ever tell you not to correct your child, guide your child, train your child in the way he should go.  That is crucial to parenting, and more parents should give it the seriousness it deserves.

What needs to be cut from our parenting are the little things that slide off our tongues.  The remarks over incidentals that don’t matter.  The words spoken rashly when tired or stressed.  The corrections that come out at the wrong time or in front of the wrong people.  The remarks that show that we doubt a child’s ability or intelligence . . . even if we do.

Let patience be your guide.

When a child spills milk or breaks a dish, it is childish behavior, not willful disobedience.  When a teen makes a cooking mistake or does poorly on a building project he worked hard on, it is a learning experience.  Too often we parents shame the child, however unintentionally, for a mistake. The incident has embarrassed the child already. There is time to teach the child to be more careful later.  Handling the immediate consequences of the incident with graciousness will help the child most.

When you come home tired from the store and notice the children did not do their chores, greet everybody lovingly first.  Then ask them to complete their jobs.  When you are not tired, assemble the team and discuss your need to be able to trust them to take on their responsibilities in your absence.

Don’t interrupt an animated story from your child to correct a grammar error or mispronunciation. Don’t criticize a new piano composition written for your birthday or a piece of artwork drawn just for you. Don’t correct spelling on a “love letter to Mama.” There will be time later to work on grammar, music theory, art, and spelling. Savor the child’s joy.

Let smiles and legitimate praise be on your lips.

Love in Action: Cut the Criticism

I am certainly not telling you to flatter your children or build them up with false praise. Rather, find some way to immediately encourage them and, later, when they are ready, help them grow.

Honest, loving corrective criticism is necessary. It’s a plain fact.  It helps children learn and grow.  It is crucial for children to learn to handle correction properly, so they don’t pout when a spouse, an employer, or a pastor “discusses” an issue with them.  Pouting past age two is not pretty, and even at two it’s questionable. There is most definitely a time for corrective criticism.

In our zeal as parents, however, and often in our frustration, we too often are too quick to criticize too harshly. Such hasty words cut our children’s hearts and extinguish a bit of their childlike joy. Can’t you almost see the joy seep out of their faces and trusting eyes when we respond critically. I’ve seen it far too often caused by my own hasty words.

As overly criticized children grow older, they come to expect your criticism.  That is hugely damaging to the openness of the communication between you.  Also, when your “not-good-enoughs” are too prominent, most children will stop valuing your opinion.  They’ve had too much parental doubting, snapping, questioning, critiquing, lecturing, and not enough honest encouragement, support, and respect.  You become a dark shadow in their lives instead of a joyful light.

Temper your words with love.

Be respectful, not reactionary. When the situation has ended and you are both calm, bring out the “life lesson.” And maybe some cookies.

A torn jacket is soon mended,
but hard words bruise the heart of a child.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Please share your thoughts below.  I have truly been enjoying your comments!

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11 thoughts on “Love in Action: Cut the Criticism”

  1. I’m so glad you said respect. So many parents harp on that their children should show them respect, but they don’t model respect for their children to follow! Kids are people too, and all people should be treated with respect.

    Great post!

  2. Oh now this is a good article. Very good in correcting my inward battle of impatience while defending the child and asking for grace for them. wow. Very well written, My Spirit leaps for this kind of content! Thank you so much. Very well balanced.

  3. Thank you for these posts. I have shared them more than once with friends who could really use the advice. Also, thank you for the reminder. I admit when I am tired I have been known to snap at my family..then apologize later..but it’s too late, the damage is done. I’m certainly not perfect, and your articles remind me that it is okay, and also give me the nudge I need to get myself “back on the right track”.

    1. Ohhhh, Lori, I am known for my apologies after the fact! I know how you feel!

      I really appreciate your comment. I never want anybody to feel they have to be perfect. That’s a stress and an unrealistic expectation we just don’t need. Just a nudge in the right direction, as you say. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by!

    2. Lori/Christy,

      We can’t take back the words but if we are catching ourselves saying it and we recognize that it’s wrong we are one step closer to no saying it at all. The fact that you do apologize makes you yet another step closer!


  4. I hear a teaching once about saying “Shame on you.” It was directed at adults who heard that growing up.
    If we understand and acknowledge that we can speak prophetically over people and that our tongue holds the power of life and death why would we ever say “shame ON you” to our children?
    Shame OFF you!! if you’ve ever head that growing up! We do not deserve shame.
    We do deserve loving correction, discipline and guidance.

    Excellent post.

  5. Interesting post! I know that constant criticism of our children can cause them to have low self esteem, low confidence and lots of insecurity. I want my son (and future children) to grow up confident in the person God has made them to be… not living with insecurity in themselves as a stumbling block to moving forward in His Kingdom! I still have to catch myself when I am criticizing my husband and son, but God is gracious and I feel like I am doing a little better in this area all the time. Thank you!

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