We are in the midst of evaluating how we as Christian moms can put aside criticism in our lives. The first three articles in this series can be found here.
Last month we used this verse as a theme for being a mom who isn’t critical with her children but rather is bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26).
Our heart attitudes affect whether our words are critical (tearing down) or admonishing (building up). When a mom sees problems in her children’s lives and she is frustrated, irritated, or impatient with her child, then her words are more likely to be critical. However, if the mom’s thoughts are filled with love toward her children, a desire to see them grow spiritually, and the joy in being able to disciple her children, then her words are going to be gentle words of admonishment filled with wisdom and kindness. What is filling your mind?
If we allow words to spout from our mouths in an instant reaction to a child’s misbehavior, it is more possible those words will be critical ones. “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 29:20). As we work away from criticism and toward admonishment, timing plays a key role. “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things” (Proverbs 15:28). I believe this verse helps us to see the importance of choosing not to react immediately to a situation, but to allow ourselves time to pray, taking any selfish, bitter, or angry thoughts captive and bringing them into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This also gives us time to repent of wrong attitudes if necessary and to beseech the Lord for His wisdom in responding. In general, I am not talking about hours of time but rather a minute or two.
Especially with older children, however, there may be instances when it is better not to respond at all at the moment of the problem, when criticism could come out, but rather to address it later with the child. “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Proverbs 15:23). Sometimes the good word spoken in due season will be right away, but at other times it might be during a quiet moment with a child several hours or even days after the situation. Without the emotion surrounding the problem, the child’s heart might be more teachable than it would have been earlier, and you as well might be more prepared emotionally and spiritually for the conversation.
Remember the phrase from Proverbs 31:26, “and in her tongue is the law of kindness”? If we aren’t to be critical, then we must use the law of kindness.
Pleasant and sweet words are going to promote the change in behavior that we desire in our children, not critical ones. There is something about harsh and angry words, which seem to lend themselves to criticism, that shut a child’s spirit down. It closes itself to being teachable.
Here are a few other verses to encourage you in the importance of the words that you are using when you admonish a child. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). “The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth” (Proverbs 10:20).
How much better it would be to pray with your child than to criticize him. As you pray with him and for him, it will help to quiet your heart and his as well. I believe you will find yourself less prone to speaking critical words. Here is what that kind of prayer might sound like: “Lord Jesus, You have told us how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity. We know love is patient and kind. Would You help these boys to do just that? I know they want to be obedient to You and to me.”
Our children will have positive outcomes in their lives if we deal with our criticism, but they will have negative ones if we don’t. Look at the contrast presented in this verse: “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health” (Proverbs 12:18). Critical words are ones that pierce the heart, while the kind, encouraging words bring healing to the heart. “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad” (Proverbs 12:25). Criticism produces a heavy heart but those words spoken with the law of kindness will make it glad. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21). By our choice of words we will generate life or death in our children’s spirits. Let me also suggest some positive outcomes that you can experience as you gain victory over critical words. “A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompence of a man’s hands shall be rendered unto him” (Proverbs 12:14). “A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence” (Proverbs 13:2). “A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled” (Proverbs 18:20). All three of these verses give a similar message. They let us know that there is satisfaction that comes as a result of our positive words. There is a great amount of joy and satisfaction that we gain when the words we speak to a child are sweet, entreating, and gentle.
“It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house” (Proverbs 25:24). I don’t want to be a brawling woman who lets criticism rule my interactions with my children. Instead I desire to speak with wisdom and have the law of kindness on my tongue. Next month we will move to evaluating criticism in other relationships.