Parents rightfully desire to correct their children. They love their children and want them to grow wiser and more mature. They feel the duty…no, they feel a love that compels them to correct their children and promote their growth. I applaud that desire. Take note, though, that effective correction involves teaching. But parents often get caught up in the heat of the moment, triggered by ghosts of their past and fears of the future, and, rather than correct, they criticize. They think they are correcting, but their words are criticizing. And criticism interferes with learning. Let me share a few examples.
- Criticism: “John, clean your room. It’s a disaster. You’re living in a dump.” Of course, there is a directive—”clean your room”—but the rest is criticism, not correction or discipline. Correction would sound more like, “John, clean your room. Everyone thinks and feels better in a clean space.” That offers the corrective teaching that leads to understanding and growth.
- Criticism: “Save some candy for everyone else. You never think about anyone but yourself, do you?” Hear the criticism? But where is the teaching? A more effective teaching statement might be: “Save some candy for other people. You don’t want to eat so much you’re not hungry for dinner. Plus, it’s polite and shows kindness when you save some for others.”
- Criticism: “Be quiet. You’re so loud. It’s irritating.” Once again, criticism with no real teaching or correction. Correction might instruct, “Be quiet” and add a polite ending (“please”) followed by teaching like, “people find it disrespectful when we get too loud in the house. You can be loud outside if you want.”
That’s only three examples, but I think you probably understand the point. We, as parents, often slip into criticism when we really want to instruct, correct, and teach. When we slip into criticism, we lose effectiveness. Not only do we not get to teach, but our children suffer the ill consequences of constant criticism.
When the time comes to correct your children, and those times will come often enough, listen to yourself. Are you correcting or criticizing? Then adjust to correcting in love.