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.
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!
Helpful Tool: Take on a learning experience together, to better learn how your child responds to lessons, critique, and growth. A couple of my girls and I have long been wanting to learn to quilt. We recently signed up for the free Craftsy Block of the Month class at Craftsy.com. It’s a simple way to fulfill a goal we’ve long had, and, because the classes are recorded, we can work it into our own often zany schedule. Craftsy sells hugely discounted craft supplies, for this and all their classes, but we are using scraps from sewing projects gone by, making it almost entirely free! Care to join us? Did I mention it’s free? Of course I did.