A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON CRITIQUING CHILDREN
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
If a person’s parenting model primarily consists of bringing critique from a heart of personal frustration, the parent’s model needs to change. Biblical parents center their primary communication to their children on love, not criticism.
God’s corrective care is always in a context of love. He disciplines the one He loves, and when you experience God’s corrections, you’re acutely aware that He loves you. God is always surveying the scene of your life not to critique you but to pour out His extravagant love on you.
A gospelized parent is similar, always “surveying the scene” of a child’s life because he loves his child and wants to motivate him toward Jesus. He is not “surveying the scene” because he’s looking for opportunities to criticize. He wants to catch his child getting it right.
Perhaps your child does something wrong, and you must correct him. If so, the Bible’s mandate on helping trapped people is with a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1-2). Of course, there are times when you can “overlook the offense” because (1) you don’t want to nickel and dime your child to death and (2) in many cases the problem will pass.
One of the ways you can determine these things is by asking yourself if it is an episode or a pattern that you are observing his life. If it’s an episode, maybe you can let it go. If it’s a developing pattern, you probably have to deal with it.
You never want to withhold correction when it is needed because there are times when corrective care is the only way to help your child change, but when you do it, you want to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1) in how you do it. You must contextualize your critique in the overwhelming, never-able-to-fully-express-love that you have for your child.
Lucia and I like to think of it in a 10-to-1 ratio: for every one negative thing we must say to our child, we have already (1) identified, (2) isolated, and (3) encouraged him with ten good things that we have observed in his life. (This ten to one ratio is a rule-of-thumb concept, not a legalistic one. It conveys the idea that love for your child is greater than your disappointment.)
If you do not “put money in the bank” of your child’s heart, you will bankrupt him. And you will tempt him to all kinds of sins, like deceit, as he hides his actions because he knows “Captain Critique” is just around the corner with a quick to speak and slow to listen mindset (James 1:19).
One of the most valuable parenting tips that have served us is spending time during the day “sneaking around our house” trying to catch our children doing good. Though it’s easy to catch them doing wrong, it takes more intentionality to love them enough to find evidence of God’s grace in their lives.
We know that if our children do anything well, God was behind it because there is no goodness in any of us without His common grace to the lost or Spirit-given grace to the saved.
These five steps will biblically position you to critique your children: