I've recently admitted that I yell at my children... and it's all because I'm lazy. I'm confident I'm not alone in that, and so far the internet hounds have not come baying at my door. So, just to be fully transparent, I thought I'd also confess that I'm also not an encouraging mom like I once thought myself to be. And this realization has hit my like a ton of bricks.
You see, I am an encouraging person. I'm an encouraging friend. I love to encourage others through my blog, surprise friends with gifts, send random thoughtful text messages to those I love. If I'm not encouraging others then I am the one who feels discouraged. It's a spiritual gift, and it ought to be exercised.
But my kids... and to a lesser extent, my husband, end up getting shorted in this. They're my most important ministry, and I have an enemy who desires that I frequently forget that.
When my children are small, encouragement comes very naturally to me. I'm THE most encouraging toddler mom ever. I clap and sing and praise like no one's business. I fully follow the 6:1 rule- meaning I praise 6 times as much as I correct or criticize.
The fact that I'm soooo good at this when my children are young makes it that much more obvious and painful that I don't continue the habit when they're older. Once my children are school-aged, "homeschool teacher mom" kicks in, as do expectations and even more embarrassingly, my overwhelming concern with how what my children know or don't know reflects on ME.
In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller calls this "Mirror Parenting", in which we make our child's abilities, knowledge, quirks, and failings about US rather than about them... we become more concerned about how those things make us LOOK to others than about how they actually affect and influence our child. As a homeschool Mom, this conviction cut DEEP into me. When you go against societal norms so hard, you feel like you're constantly on display. Ask any Mom who's had her 3rd grader quizzed at the grocery checkout line when you happened to venture out during "school hours." We become petrified that others will see a lack of knowledge in our children as OUR failing and will deem us unfit parents, deem our homeschool a failure, and generally think of us as horrible idiots.
Years ago, I began living under this lie, and the outcome of that is that my speech toward my older children has become highly critical and self-serving. Do I encourage? SURE. Do I encourage 6:1? Not by a long shot.
My sweet girls have gone from having an enthusiastic cheerleader Mom of their early childhood to one who stresses out about all they DON'T KNOW (instead of rejoicing in all they DO KNOW- which is so so much!). They now see me focusing on what they can't do or failed to do instead all they've been able to accomplish.
They've stepped into a time in their lives when they have the MOST insecurities and the most self-doubt, all shrouded in the thickness of comparison... and their Mom is right there in the crowd- mounting new expectations, telling them to do it better, pointing out what they didn't get right.
STAB. ME. IN. THE. EYE.
It's not about not correcting. I'm their parent and their teacher. I can't just NOT correct them. But correction is most effective when it's wrapped in encouragement and positivity- when it's wrapped IN LOVE. Correction is most effective when it's measured and doled out with extreme consideration beforehand., and as Paul says in Ephesians 4:15:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ...
Speaking truth in LOVE means we are bringing the Holy Spirit into the mix, and we are choosing to admonish our child IN CHRIST so that through grace they can see their wrongs and work hard to turn from them. Speaking correction to them out of fear of what others think, out of my own insecurities, and out of just blatant criticism only brings pain and resentment.
Correcting my children out of my own insecurities does not bring encouragement or usher in a changed heart.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing- 1 Thessalonians 5:11
So whether it's our children (no matter their age) or our spouse, let's build one another up. We are not called, in parenting, to tear one another down. I'm outting this sinful aspect of myself so that I can say this (join with me if this speaks to you):
"Dear God, I have eyes to see what I've been doing to my daughters and husband. I realize that I'm speaking much more criticism than I am encouragement- and that it does nothing to equip their souls or hearts for this hard world. I realize I am not correcting them in CHRIST for their own good, but out of my own vanity and pride. Please Lord, forgive me, change my heart, open my eyes, and equip my mouth to pour forth soothing honey upon their needy hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."
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