Do you remember that old cowboy song Home On The Range? There's one line that stands out to me- "where never is heard, a discouraging word...". Can you imagine living your life without ever hearing a word of discouragement? Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?
The song doesn't say you'll never be critiqued- because that is something entirely different. Criticism lacks advice, while critiquing encourages by giving advice on how to make it better.
I never realized just how often I criticize my kids instead of critiquing. A perfect example of these differences happened this past Father's Day.
My daughter drew my husband a picture for Father's Day. I expected the work in full color, because I've seen her put in a mighty effort in when she drew for her friends. However, when Father's day came, she handed him a pencil sketch- no color. It bothered me that she didn't put her best foot forward for her dad, though the drawing was excellent.
"I thought you were going to color it." I blurted, just as she handed it to her father. My tone was one of disappointment. Her face flushed, and I realized that I had embarrassed her as well as made her gift look less than it was.
I had criticized without giving her helpful information.
Of course, my husband loved it- she put a lot of effort into the line drawing and even added a little background scenery that she'd thought he'd like. But she and I both knew from exchanged glances, that she didn't do all she could have done. So I changed tactics. I wanted her to give him her best, but not embarrass her further.
I suggested, "If you color that for him, I'll put it in a nice frame so he can hang it on the wall and see it every day." She perked up at this (because she loves it when we show off her work), and happily agreed to do so- and dad will have something awesome to hang when she's finished.
Okay, so this wasn't a crisis- but it helped me to see what I was initially doing was wrong. Too many times I've criticized my kids when I could have been encouraging and teaching at the same time. Too many times have they stopped doing something because they didn't want to hear bad feedback- and it is bad if I do nothing but tell them "That doesn't look right" without actually telling them why- and how to fix it. Intonation counts too- I come from a City of Snarkiness where sarcasm abounds- and it flavors everything I do. It works great in comedy and blog posts, but not so great when raising kids.
I'm not the best mom, but with God's grace and patience, I'll learn new things each day and get better at it.
Maybe I'll get the hang of this child-rearing stuff by the time they graduate. Sigh.