Parents, Are You a Chipper or a Sculptor

Parents carry a huge responsibility. We are responsible for the next generation, the future of our society. The relationships we build with our children shape the world in which we will grow old. The unspoken values we pass on to our children will impact how future generations interact, resolve conflict, and share resources. The subtle ways we treat our children will determine how they view themselves and how they treat others. So, I have to ask: Are you a chipper or a sculptor? Do you carelessly chip away at your children and our future? Or, do you carefully sculpt your children in an effort to shape their inner strength and virtues?

tree grinder,Chippers criticize…a lot. Overly critical parents can see results of their criticism if they take an honest look. Let me describe some of the signs a chipper might see.

  • Criticism chips away at children’s sense of competence. Overly criticized children feel inadequate and incompetent. They feel nothing they do is good enough; and, as a result, they are not good enough. Children who receive constant criticism come to believe there is something wrong with them.
  • Criticism splinters parent-child relationships. Children fear criticism and, to protect themselves, will withdraw from anyone who might criticize them. If they fear a parent will criticize them, they will withdraw from that parent. They will hide any part of themselves they believe their parents will criticize. As a result, their parents cannot know them completely. They will maintain a distant and self-protective relationship. As criticized children withdraw from their parents to avoid criticism, parents also lose any opportunity to influence their children.
  • Criticism shatters children’s self-confidence. It replaces self-confidence with a nagging doubt about personal ability to achieve or make independent decisions. This doubt turns to fear in the face of new opportunities that carry risk (and all opportunity carries some risk). As a result, overly criticized children procrastinate. They avoid novel tasks and opportunities. They miss out.
  • Criticism becomes a twisted internal dialogue that fuels self-doubt and maintains an inadequate self-concept. The more criticism children receive, the smaller, more insignificant, and less capable they will believe themselves to be.
  • Criticism eventually batters other people and relationships. The criticism bouncing around in our children’s minds and whittling away at their own sense of competence eventually overflows to slash at other people. Criticism begets criticism and relationships are devastated.

Think about the future overly critical parents (chippers) create by criticizing their children. Chippers create a future filled with grown children who feel inadequate and incompetent. As a result, these children withdraw and engage in superficial relationships that enable them to hide the most significant and meaningful parts of themselves from others. Loneliness ensues. Self-doubt replaces the drive to grow and learn with feigned satisfaction with a tiresome status quo.  Fear of failure hinders exploration, invention, and the progress that comes from sharing related discoveries. Innovation is hindered. Relationships become marked by critical banter at best and, at worst, harsh criticism and hateful remarks.

We, as parents, can help avoid this future by becoming sculptors instead of chippers. Sculptors…well, read part 2 to learn how sculptors shape their children for a better future.

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