Watch What You Say

“Melissa, put your hand over your mouth and leave it there for 5 minutes.”

The giggling of my classmates did not help.

My face aflame, I tried to make a joke out of the reprimand.

I clapped my hand to my mouth, the sting rivaling the verbal slap I’d just received from the teacher.

It was junior high preview day at my small, private school. The day the sixth graders got a taste of what the next year would be like. Multiple teachers, multiple classrooms, independence.

It was exciting and slightly scary. As was usual for me when I found myself in those circumstances, I was talking way too much.

The teacher, exasperated with my nonstop chatter, had had enough.

I don’t think I even realized what I was doing.

Speaking without thinking is a downfall of mine.

I’d like to believe that this is something I do less frequently now that I’m older…

However, something I witnessed the other day caused me to realize it’s still a problem.

“She’s a good girl; she just has a problem with cleaning up.”

Mothers and daughters. What a strange relationship.

I dreaded having a daughter.

Then Cora was born, and she healed me of some of those fears.

A recent interaction between a mother and daughter stopped me in my tracks and caused me to catch my breath.

Criticism.

Not blatant, but consistent.

Never is a compliment given without a negative accompaniment.

Oblivious to the whittling down of her daughter’s spirit, this mother airs her frustration in front of others.

What made it the worse is that I can see myself standing at the mouth to this same path.

“Cora’s cute, but she can tend to be bossy.”

“Cora’s so affectionate, but she doesn’t know how to be quiet.”

On and on it goes; as if I’m afraid to over inflate my child’s self-worth.

::

Shame versus Instruction

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 1 Corinthians 4:14

As parents, ministry leaders, supervisors, whatever your role of leadership, our job is to provide training and guidance to those beneath us.

This can be done through shame, or through instruction.

I can pick apart the things in my daughter that frustrate or annoy me:

By highlighting them in front of others.

By scolding her incessantly.

By ridiculing her.

Or I can gently, graciously choose to instruct her in the ways of God:

By highlighting her giftings and talents in front of others.

By praising her incessantly.

By offering Biblical solutions for areas that prove to be more difficult for her.

::

I’m sure that teacher didn’t intend to cause me the pain she did; later I found her to be a caring, thoughtful woman. She was probably just overwhelmed by a classroom full of young, hyper students and I was the squeaky wheel.

She spoke without thinking.

She chose to shame instead of instruct.

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23 thoughts on “Watch What You Say

  1. Oh my. This is a problem for me too. A constant battle. But when I’m good . . . when I’m the encouraging mother I ought to be . . . my children rise to my praise. They become what I’m making them out to be. Likewise when I ridicule them, they meet my expectations as well. We definitely sow what we reap!

  2. You have stepped on my toes. A preacher once told us that for every negative comment you make, you should give at least four positive ones. What? It made me think. Now I think I forgot that until I read this. Thank you for the reminder. I want my children to be secure in my love for them no matter what their “downfalls” may be in my imperfect eyes. Their Lord loves them unconditionally.

    Thanks for the sweet comment on my blog.

    • Sometimes I think I need to be this or that as a parent. Then I contrast that with how God “parents” me, and realize I have it all wrong. I am slowly trying to align my treatment of my children with how God chooses to deal with me. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. hi, thank you so much for stopping by. this was the perfect post for me to read. amazing how He leads us where we need to be. with the role of mom comes the constant caring for someone else and it can be overwhelming at times. i have truly been working on hitting the “pause” button and taking a breath. it is important to reflect on how quickly these moments pass and how long-lasting a little comment can be.

    please if you have a chance stop by my shoppe and let me know what you think. http://www.melondot.etsy.com

    • It can definitely be overwhelming, and those “pause” moments are so important for us! :) Tuesdays Unwrapped have helped me to remember to capture the everyday moments and not feel so overwhelmed, which I see they’re doing for you as well.

  4. I think shaming does so much damage. I still remember shaming things people said to me when I was a kid and it’s clear you do, too. And then we learn to do the right things for all the wrong reasons, and that’s not what God wants, either.

    • I didn’t realize how much that event had impacted me, but it’s true that we remember so easily the hurtful things said to us. I wish I remembered as clearly all the loving, encouraging things people have said over the years. :)

  5. being a mom has to be the hardest thing in the world.. .no matter how great you are… there are probably always areas you are beating yourself up over… here is to a gentle wind infecting your spirit and heart so that you can receive the wonderful Grace of God this week… because to the rest of us friend… it looks like you are doing a wonderful job raising your adorable Cora :)

    • Thank you Jenny! That is so sweet of you to say. My mom was telling me once about a time where she punished me that still haunts her. She felt so bad about it, and I don’t even remember it. :) I guess shame, and guilt, come into play in this area as well. I really appreciate the encouragement!

  6. Shame is not a good teacher. So important for us as parents to remember. They get shame from all over the place and us adding to it will not be beneficial. Great post, Melissa.

    Thank you.

    • I realized how important it is that I am my children’s biggest encourager! You’re right, there are so many that are ready to beat them down, we need to counter that with an honesty and love. Thanks, Jason. :)

  7. What wisdom! It is such a good reminder, Melissa. I’m not yet at a point in my mothering journey where my kids are challenging me much (mostly the functional challenges of day-to-day parenting a 1-year-old) but the reminder to be positive is something that is good to hear. As the mom of a toddler, it is often easy to get caught in the “no’s”. I once read that for every negative communication, there should be at least 1 positive. I have been working at being purposeful in praising my son when he follows my instructions, makes a good choice, or simply has a good meal. It seems trivial, but I think it is really important for our kids to know that we approve of them, not just that we love them. Does that make sense?

    It’s easy to always be cuddling them and telling them we love them or how cute they are while also telling them “no” about things that are off-limits. Or, you could give them the affectionate comments + comments building up their character and affirming their good choices and qualities while still setting safe boundaries and gently molding their behavior (like you said, “offering Biblical solutions for areas that prove to be more difficult”).

    …I guess you hit a hot spot for me. :-)
    Thank you for the reminder/encouragement.

    • Haley! So much good stuff. :)

      You know what’s funny? I noticed that I do this with the babies too. People comment on how happy and easy-going Ezra is, and for some reason I feel I then need to counter that and let them know how difficult he is about eating. Instead of just accepting the compliment for him, I negate it. :( Boo! So although your baby boy is still young, I think it’s great that you’re making a point to be positive with him now. Criticism is a habit we can easily fall into.

      You’re doing a great job with your little man and I can’t wait to see that princess you’ve got coming. :)

      And thanks for always leaving such encouraging and great comments. It’s fun to have my friends interacting with me here. It helps me to keep at this when I feel discouraged and I love connecting with you, although we’re so far away. Love you, friend. :)

  8. I’m so glad I came across your blog today. I know I speak before I think too often when it comes to my daughter – about her constant talking, never being able to sit still. I should be praising God for her ability to speak and the constant joy he blessed her with.

    • Sounds like we have similar daughters. :) I’m glad you came across my blog today, too. I love your suggestion: “praising God for her ability to speak and the constant joy he blessed her with.” So much truth there.

  9. yep. i do that all the time when others compliment me on the girls…need to remember how much they listen and how deep their hearts feel…there is no need for me to counter a compliment, with a negative trait and i do that too much!

    we often play a game at dinner time where we share what we love about each other. it’s silly, but i want my girls to know how much they are cherished….i’ve done a LOT of damage to them in the past couple of years and I am forever grateful that they are quick to forgive.

    • I know I don’t always speak in the right tone or with the right words (something I’m working on) but I do pride myself on asking my kids’ forgiveness when I know I’ve wronged them. I figure if I make them apologize, I should too. Haha! That’s a great nightly ritual. I might have to start implementing that in our household. :) Looking forward to hanging out on Friday!

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