"Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." Proverbs 14:1
Have you ever had someone walk up to you out of the blue and criticize the way you are raising your children? Or tell you how wrong you are for believing the way you do? I have had that happen to me more than a few times in my life. And I'm sure there are times when I have, in ignorance, done this very thing to other people. After having experienced it myself, I vowed I would never allow myself to be so unkind again.
In every such instance, I have immediately become defensive. I put up barriers to avoid being hurt further. I quit listening to what the person was saying, although for years afterward I could repeat every criticism, word for word. Such words are sharp as arrows and they don't just hurt one time, but every time that incident is remembered, even after you have truly forgiven that person, the sting can still be felt.
I have pondered many times the "best" way to produce change in people's lives. Let's say that I have a friend who constantly yells at her children. Knowing that going up to "Lucy" and telling her how wrong she is will do nothing but hurt her, what can I do to let her see that yelling is very destructive? Personally, I think that prayer is the most important thing I can do. If I can really bring Lucy to the Lord and pray for her with a sincere heart, God will begin to work in her life.
The hardest thing for me to do is NOT to say a word to her about the situation. Many times, God will deal with that person and she will come to me and tell me how she had been struggling with a certain situation (the very one I prayed about) and God delivered her from it. Very rarely, she will ask me what I would do in that situation, and then and ONLY then, and with very carefully thought out words, I delicately broach the subject.
I have found this to be very effective in dealing with my teenagers as well. Obviously, I am still the parent and God holds me responsible for training them properly, but the approach I use should be respectful, encouraging them to the right behaviour.
Sometimes, I need to simply pray for them and wait for the "right" moment. Sometimes, I need to write a letter about a similar situation I faced as a teen. Rarely, does direct criticism produce the change in behaviour that I am striving for.
On the flip side I want to encourage positive behaviour. I go out of my way to look for things to praise in their lives. If I know someone thinks I'm a really good cook and that person offers me advise on how to make lighter biscuits, nine times out of ten I'm going to appreciate the advise.
Some people are afraid to "brag" on their kids because they think they will become proud. Maybe...but I know that I love to hear people say nice things about me. Whether it's about my parenting skills, my cooking, housekeeping or how I look, it makes my day brighter to hear a kind remark! I don't think our teens are much different, we all like to be appreciated and loved. Saying nice things about someone shows we value them.
So are my words building up and encouraging or are they tearing down and destroying my family?