Do you struggle with shaming your kids or going on rants of discouraging them by making sure they know how they disappointed you? I sure do, and I know how and what we need to do to make it stop!
In my Bible study this morning on Gideon, in the book of Judges 7:24-25 and 8:1, I am reminded of how negative criticism, both on the receiving and giving end, never turns out well for anyone. When I think of how I have reaped unnecessary criticism upon others, I must sadly admit I give it to my children the most. As a Mama, I have a hunch you feel me on this.
If you have any role in the lives of little people, be it mother, teacher, aunt, grandparent, sister, cousin, babysitter, childcare provider, and the list goes on, then you have major impact in their lives. This is important here:
The words we use have power to speak life or speak depletion into their lives. We must be intentional and careful with our words, our tone, and our behavior with these precious little minds.
There are several cases I get this all wrong with my own children. Currently my three children are elementary and toddler aged, which means they forget to do what they are told sometimes, or they leave things in places they don't belong. Shoes and fragments of clothes or toys get left on the living room floor, plates with leftover crumbs, food and cups get left out, playdough dries up, and messes are made. Whining ensues when they are asked to take care of their own belongings.
This is when my old feelings of unworthiness and insignificance come out and I can speak unnecessary negative criticism on my children in the form of shame and discouragement. I tend to run my mouth with words that don't uplift and encourage them, but rather make them feel bad about themselves, or worse, feel sorry for me.
If we are not careful to take care of our own insecurities, we will speak negative criticism upon the little ones in our care without even realizing it. Now of course I want to teach my children to pick up after themselves and obey Mommy, but their obedience or lack of obedience does not signify whether or not they care about me or love me. I tend to attack with shaming words when my self-worth feels attacked. This is entirely misplaced, and I'm well aware of it.
We must realize that children are little sponges and their minds are not fully developed yet, not even close. As their brains are wiring and growing to be fully developed, we have the power to plant seeds of doubt and discouragement, or to plant seeds of confidence and encouragement. We have the power to help our kids flourish into loving themselves as who God says they are, perfectly imperfect, and accepting them along the way with gracious guidance. We can give firm directions and expectations, whilst still meeting them with abundant grace when they make mistakes.
As parents or caretakers, we should expect the mistakes, and even the disagreements and arguing. As adults, are we really so different? See if you relate to any of these scenarios:
Do we not have disagreements and "whine" in our own way when life doesn't turn out as we planned?
Do we complain about work or our boss, our dishes, our laundry and our responsibilities?
Do we not argue with our spouses when they don't see things our way?
Do we argue with our teenagers and don't understand why they won't join that group of friends or make time to study so they can do well in school - but we still won't schedule the time to workout and stay healthy or make time to read our Bible, or go after that job because of whatever excuse we have come up with?
Just like us, they struggle to change bad habits. Just like us, they fight for what they want. We may not throw full on tantrums or respond in the same ways, but we can understand them if we step back and look at the full picture. In many aspects, we truly aren't all too different from the ways of a child.
So let's help out our kids and teens. Keep your rules and your boundaries firm, but let's speak life into them even when they mess up. We have a rule in our house about "spilled milk." Our kids can recite it on a dime, "If you make a spill, say 'Oops!' and try again." My husband and I made this early on because we used to get really bothered by spilled drinks, and they happened a lot! To keep it light for the kids and for us, we made it fun. Sometimes the mistakes really aren't as big a deal as we make them out to be. Sometimes we need to have an "Oops!" mentality. Let's give them grace. Let's shower them with love.
So, you ask, how do we end the cycle?
First, always pray. Ask God to give you courage and boldness to turn to Him. Personally, I pray God would silence my mouth if I don't have positive words to say.
Reflect internally. Take some time to think and journal what is triggering you. Identify what makes you angry or afraid. Identify the specific things your child(ren) do that you end up discouraging and shaming them for.
Recognize the difference, and separate your feelings from their actions. This one is huge. They may still need consequences for their actions, but shame and discouragement is never a healthy consequence. Be cognizant not to attach their behavior to your feelings or self-worth.
Apologize to your child. What? Yes, you heard me. They need to know that you have decided to act different and that you are sorry for hurting them. They need to know that you understand them and that you care. (Personal example: I have said many times to my children, "I am very sorry for yelling at you. Mommy should never yell and shame you. Your behavior was still wrong, and you still (lost screen time, have time out, whatever consequence may be), but I want you to know I am sorry for the way I chose to respond in anger." - (make this age appropriate)
Choose different and repeat. This is a daily choice we must remind ourselves of. Sometimes we will have grace and do better. Sometimes we will forget and we will shame them again. But we can make a change, and it starts by intentionally praying, reflecting, recognizing the difference, separating our feelings, apologizing when we mess up, and choosing different. Repeat this process over and over. You will get better at it.
The number one factor I cannot fathom about our God is His never-ending abundant grace and mercy. I can't count the number of sins in my life, and every time I expected God to meet me with punishment, He showered me with grace and mercy. His grace and mercy is what turns my heart back to Him every time. The same will be true with our children. Our grace and mercy will soften their hearts. I pray you richly lavish upon your children the grace and mercy your Heavenly Father gives you.
Let us speak life into their little minds.
I would love to hear your success stories or answer any questions you have! Please like and add to the comments so I can hear from you!
Be blessed my sweet friends!
From one Mama warrior to another-
Your sister in Christ,