Is Your Criticism Aversion Hurting Your Kids?

We live in a world where everyone is encouraged to criticize, but no one is encouraged to listen. Actually, you are encouraged to listen to the person’s criticism who is speaking or writing, but no one else’s critiques matter. It’s often couched in phrases like, “Everyone is doing the best they can.” Or “No one has a right to tell me what to do.” Or the ever popular, “Imperfection shows I’m only human.”

Unfortunately, this aversion to criticism is hurting young people – and not just because they won’t listen to our critiques. We live in a world that frowns upon self examination and self improvement – that embraces imperfection as laudable. A world where people would rather experience a hundred miserable failures than listen to the constructive criticism of others.

Yet, God calls Christians to a higher standard. We are to examine ourselves and strive for improvement, growth and even perfection. (Matthew 5:48, 2 Peter 1:5-8 and others) As Christian parents, we need to examine our parenting and our children to see if what we are doing is really helping our kids build strong spiritual foundations and grow to their godly potential.

A recent article in Psychology Today, gave several reasons why parents are missing their kids’ depression. The advice boiled down to parents need to listen – really listen to their kids, and they need not look for quick fixes, but should put in the work necessary to really help their kids deal with their depression.

Yet how many parents read that article or the previous paragraph from a defensive mindset? How many excuses or critiques of the author whipped through your brain while you were reading it? How incensed were you that someone dared to criticize how you listen to your children or how you try to help them with their problems?

Now imagine, if this were written from a Christian perspective. How would you react, if they added concerns about the spiritual health of your children? Or quoted scriptures? Or made specific suggestions of ways to help them process their emotions with God’s help? Or suggested something you are doing is hurting, rather than helping your kids?

We all know that not every critique is equally valid. Yet immediately dismissing all criticism – even that which is constructive and godly – is dangerous for us and our kids. Taking a little while longer to compare it to scripture and examine it for truth and validity could save us a lot of time and spare us a lot of grief.

Godly, constructive criticism can help you catch Christian parenting mistakes before they hurt your kids spiritually. It can save you time wasted by trial and error. It can improve your Christian parenting outcomes by allowing you to learn from those wiser and/or more experienced than you.

It’s worth taking a little extra time to really listen and process constructive criticism directed at your parenting. It can make a huge positive difference in the lives of your kids. It’s worth conquering your aversion, at least long enough to listen and vet what others are saying.

Giving Your Kids Feedback That Works

Lately, I’ve been watching shows about the great estates in England and their servants. I stared fascinated as the servants actually took a ruler and measured everything on a dinner table to make sure each item was placed in the exact proper place.

Imagine if one of the servants were new and neglected to use the ruler for an important dinner party. What would the owner of the estate say to the servant? More importantly, what would he say to make sure the table was set perfectly the next time?

In parenting, there is feedback or correction that helps our kids learn and grow and there is another kind that confuses, frustrates and eventually discourages them. What are those differences?

  • Helpful feedback is extremely specific and concrete. Children, especially young children, are concrete thinkers. Telling them they need a better attitude or to do something better, means very little to them. If, however, you explain that the fork goes to the left of the plate or that they shouldn’t complain when you ask them to do something, they are more likely to comply. When you give your child feedback, try to hear it from their perspective, but pretend like you are speaking a language they don’t fully understand yet. Do they actually know what those words mean to you and how to do the things you are asking them to do?
  • Helpful feedback often involves demonstrations. Sometimes showing works better than telling. Show your kids how you want them to make their beds or put away their clothes. Have them practice in front of you, giving them helpful reminders as needed.
  • Helpful feedback is developmentally appropriate. A table set by a four year old will look different from a table set by a fourteen year old. You need to consider your child’s age and abilities when giving feedback. Yes, you want to move your children closer to the ultimate goal with your feedback, but don’t push them to do things they aren’t able to do yet or let them off the hook for things they can easily master. It may take some trial and error, but you will eventually get a feel for the right balance of encouraging growth without overwhelming them.
  • Helpful feedback takes into account a child’s personality. Some kids crumble before the first word of feedback, while others need to hear it given in a firm tone before they will even consider paying attention. Being too harsh or too wish washy with the wrong child and your attempts at feedback will back fire.
  • Helpful feedback looks for the root of ongoing issues. As Christian parents, we need to be extremely aware of potential heart issues in our kids. Are you constantly having to give the same child the same feedback because the child isn’t understanding or able to do what is asked or because he or she is developing a rebellious heart? Missing the development of a rebellious heart can lead to heartbreak for everyone in the future. Assuming a child has a rebellious heart when he or she is actually just confused, can do damage to your relationship over time. It’s vital to take the time to explore the root cause with your child before jumping to conclusions and then address that core issue appropriately.
  • Helpful feedback comes from a place of love and concern. Yes, you can openly dislike your children and still teach them how to make a bed properly, but that’s not the ultimate goal of Christian parenting. Christian parents need a close, loving relationship with their kids so they can continue to be an influence, helping their kids grow to be mighty men and women of God. When your kids know without a doubt you love them and have their best interest at heart, they will accept your feedback more willingly and use it to learn and grow.

The next time you give your kids feedback and don’t get the desired results, carefully examine what you said. Structuring your feedback with the tips above in mind, might get you the results you want.

Fun Kid Craft For Giving Anxieties to God

We live in anxious times and the anxiety level of the average child has raised exponentially from previous generations. When kids aren’t taught healthy, godly ways of managing their anxiety, they can become susceptible to all sorts of unhealthy, dangerous and ungodly ways to cope.

Children raised in Christian homes, may have been taught to turn their anxieties over to God, but not really understand how to do it. There’s an easy craft project you can do with your kids that can not only help them understand the concept, but also encourage them to practice it.

Grab a Bible and tell your kids about some of the times in the life of David when he may have been anxious. You can find some great examples in 1 Samuel 21 – 24. Explain that when David was anxious we know one of the things he did was talk to God. We know this, because he wrote some of his prayers down in the book of Psalms. (You may want to read Psalms 23, 27, 34, 61, 91 or others to them.)

For older children, it’s important to point out that God didn’t always take away the stress from David’s life immediately. When God left the stressful situation in David’s life for a time, David had to trust that God would help him get through the situation. David learned to lean on God by turning his anxieties over to him, even if they continued to exist for long periods of time.

Explain to your kids that sometimes when we are anxious, we forget to pray to God about it. Instead we spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about the things that are making us anxious. Suddenly, we can’t sleep or maybe we start feeling ill from the stress.

A great way to remember to pray about the things making them anxious – and to let God handle them for them – is to have a visual cue to remind them. Grab empty tins for mints or other small containers. Have your kids each decorate one. If the containers are large enough, they may want to write their favorite verse from the Psalms you read on them.

Inside the container put lots of slips of blank paper and a pencil (golf pencils work well for smaller containers). Tell your kids whenever they worry, they should write what is worrying them on a slip of paper. Then they should pray about what they wrote. When they are finished, they can close the slip of paper in the container or dramatically destroy it to remind them they have given it to God to take care of for them.

After completing the project, make sure your kids place their containers somewhere in their room where they will be easily seen. When they seem anxious, remind them to write it down, pray about it and let God handle it. Helping them establish good prayer habits can also help them manage their anxiety levels.

Fun Way to Teach Kids to Make Godly Choices

Life is about decisions. Make godly choices and you will have fewer negative consequences that result. Make poor choices and you may spend the rest of your life dealing with the negative consequences. It’s not a perfect system, because we live in a Fallen world. Regardless of how accurately the consequences are given on earth, however, we know God will judge fairly in the end.

The problem is that kids and teens are rarely taught any tools for making good choices. What results is a lot of trial and error. Kids who are attentive, detail oriented and learn from the mistakes of others will often make good choices more consistently. As a result, we think it is some skill set with which we are born and either use or don’t use.

Instead of relying on your kids to self educate on making godly choices, why not give them a few tools to use? We have a free printable parenting guide on the Teach One Reach One Ministries website, but there are several other tools you can give your kids.

One is the decision flow chart. It can be a lot of fun to teach and learn. It’s probably best to start with an example that’s fairly simple and straight forward. Grab some paper and writing instruments and show your kids the example.

Let’s say the choice is whether or not to cheat on a test. Write down the question “Should I cheat on this test?”. Then draw two diverging arrows from the question. On one arrow write “yes” and on the other write “no”. This is a great example, because it illustrates how only thinking out one step can lead to making a huge mistake. This is because the first results are actual deceptive. If your child cheats, he or she will get a good grade and if he or she doesn’t, they may fail.

Then ask them what could happen next. From this point forward, you may have multiple arrows from each option. For example, if they fail the test, they may have additional negative consequences, but they could also get extra help from the teacher or you might hire a tutor to help them.

As the adult, you will need to guide the flow chart at first. They may not have the life experience to realize cheating is lying and they might begin lying to everyone or lose the trust of others because they lied. They may not realize that while extra help and tutoring sound boring, mastering the content is crucial for where they want to go in life.

You can give them more practice using Bible stories. What if the person in the story had made the opposite choice? How might things have changed? There is actually a entire genre of literature based on people in secular history making the opposite choices and what might have happened.

Whenever your child is faced with a decision and time allows, employ this flow chart method. It isn’t perfect, because we live in a fallen world, but your life experience has probably taught you there are definite patterns.

If your child points out times when things didn’t go as expected on the flow chart, talk about it. Explain what happened when sin entered God’s perfect world and disrupted it. Discuss God’s plan of redemption. Remind them of the importance of obeying God, even if Satan gives us negative consequences in the moment for our obedience to God.

Teaching your kids to make good choices takes time and effort. It’s worth it though to help your kids avoid unnecessary negative consequences from using the trial and error method.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Salt and Light

The idea of Christians being salt and light is an abstract concept young children will have a hard time understanding. While you will need to have many conversations over the years about what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:13-18, you can begin with some fun activities.

First grab a flashlight. Go into a room or closet you can make entirely dark. Talk about how hard it would be to read a book or do anything without just a little light. For very small children, you may even bring a book into the room to read to them, but discover you can’t without the light.

Have your child turn on the flashlight. Discuss what a big difference even a little bit of light can make in a dark space. If you have more than one child, have each of them turn on an additional flashlight and show the power of having a lot of people being the light.

Try to explain the verses about Christians being a light in the world. Don’t worry if they don’t entirely understand the connection now. You can continue having conversations over the years as they become more capable of abstract thought.

Then give your kids a salted and unsalted snack. You may have to experiment to find one where the two taste distinctly different. Ask your kids to explain what they believe the salt added to the taste of the snack.

Pull out two pieces of bread. (Non commercially baked breads work better because they have fewer preservatives.) Have your kids put their unwashed hands all over both pieces. One piece of bread should go into a plastic baggie and be sealed. The other should be sprinkled with a tablespoon of salt and placed in a plastic bag so the salt stays on the bread.

Have your kids watch the bread for several days. Which piece of bread grew mold more slowly? Discuss the Bible verses while explaining that salt is used for flavor, preserving food and even disinfecting things. It had so many uses in Bible times (remember there was no electricity, so salting things could also keep them safer to eat) that salt was even used as money at times!

Spend a lot of time discussing what it means for Christians to be salt and light in the world. What are some practical things they can do to be salt and light in their worlds every day?