Have you ever spent time blowing up a large balloon only to have your fingers slip, the balloon escapes from you, flies across the room, and all the air leaves the balloon? How discouraging it is to have emptied your lungs for nothing and have to do it all over again!
A few harsh words of criticism to your children can do a quick job of deflating them, and undo all your efforts in building them up. As homeschooling parents who are both teacher and parent, balancing between constructive correction and criticism is a challenging job. They have opposite effects on a child. Correction can build up a child. It is empowering for him as he receives tools and specifics for improvement. Criticism however, deflates a child, causing them to retreat in a broken and hurt state feeling rejected. Correction can cause a child to thoughtfully examine themselves while criticism usually results in a child responding with defensive denial of any wrongdoing on their part. A child tends to start blaming others and move farther and farther away from the developing the humble teachable spirit that the Lord wants us all to exhibit.
So, how can we avoid this destructive trap? The Lord calls us to give gentle instruction (2 Tim 2:25) and to work towards gentle restoration (Gal 6:1.) There is no place in Godly correction for harsh words and tone of voice. When we must correct our children, we need to make sure our motives are pure (Phil 2:3.) We should not be trying to get even with our kids, to compete with them to feed our egos, or to get our own way. We are called to come in humility (Prov. 22:4.) Constructive correction addresses specific behavior and does not make generalizations. For example, “You need to finish your math homework before you can play your video game” vs “You are so lazy and never get your work done on time!” There is no place in correction for comparing your child to their sibling or friends. That will only destroy. God does not say to me “Susan, why can’t you be like the other godly people in your church who give so much time to me?” He says “Susan, remember to ask me before you say yes to anyone else about priorities for your time.” Correction should always include specific steps for our children to take to make a change. Another very powerful thing we can do as parents in helping our children respond positively to correction is to model that for them. With humility, let your children know about times you have received correction and about the things you are working on to improve.
Remember Christian homeschooling is all about discipling our children and when we deflate their spirits with selfish words of criticism, we are not doing our job. Praying the Lord will give you the clarity to see the difference between correction and criticism and help to inflate your children’s lives with the Word of God!
In His service,
This is a collection of the reflections our principal, Susan Truman submits to our monthly newsletters. She is married to her college sweetheart and is a mother of three. She graduated two of her children from Coastal with her third child attending a special needs school.