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Overly critical parent, results beginning to surface

  • I'm afraid I've had an overly critical attitude toward my children, and the results are now beginning to surface. How do we turn this around?

Question: I'm afraid I've had an overly critical attitude toward my children, and the results are now beginning to surface. How do we turn this around?

Answer: You'll be encouraged to know that other parents have confronted and successfully dealt with the challenges you're facing now.

As a first step toward resolving this issue, consider stating the obvious to your children. Try saying something like, "Your mum and I have made a mistake.

We've been overly critical with you kids. We've placed too high a standard on ourselves, and as a result we've done the same thing to you." Cite a couple of specific instances. Then bring the message home by concluding, "We're really sorry. Will you please forgive us?"

Eating humble pie is never easy, but it can lead to some of the most precious teachable moments you'll ever experience as a parent. In this case, it will provide your children with a concrete example of servant leadership and an unforgettable lesson on the meaning of mercy and grace.

The damage can be reversed if you make the effort to set a different kind of example. Pay attention to the standards you set for yourselves. Let your kids see that you and your wife can accept yourselves (and each other) even with all your flaws. Embrace each other's little quirks.

In conversations with your children, pay special attention to their feelings. If they put themselves down or express a lack of self-confidence, avoid the temptation to shake them out of that mood with a sermon or pep-talk.

It's rarely helpful to say, "You shouldn't think that way. Look at all the wonderful talents and abilities you have!" Instead, listen to her carefully and repeat back what you hear. Respond with something like, "It sounds as if you're feeling insecure (disappointed with yourself, embarrassed, nervous, etc.). Is that right?"

Let them know that you can relate to their feelings – that you sometimes feel the same way yourself. In so doing you will create an atmosphere of understanding, openness, and acceptance in which she will be able to bloom and grow without fear of failure and disapproval.

If you're dealing with a particularly stubborn child, the situation gets a bit more complex. It's difficult to guess exactly what's going on in their minds, but after seeing the high expectations that mum, dad, and even siblings have set for themselves, some kids give up in discouragement.

Sometimes a child's outward behavior is simply a mask for what he's experiencing inside. Naturally, there should be consequences for a mere stubborn refusal to cooperate. But even here it would be helpful to avoid conflict as much as possible and spend some time trying to get in touch with your child's heart.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia and the Questions and Answers are extracted from "Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide" with permission.

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