Growing up, it was not something practiced in my house often. I mentioned hearing frequently how "selfish" I was. Another consistent message was "I'm really disappointed in you." Usually served up alongside criticism of the latest chore I hadn't done perfectly--a streak of dust left on an end-table, some leaves remaining under the bushes after raking, a smudge on the car from not drying it properly.
Those messages are part of some of my earliest memories. My 'real' dad being "disappointed" in the two B's on a first-grade report card (out of about 26 A's!). Laying in bed, too excited to sleep the night before my eighth birthday and hearing him shout at my mom, "I'm ashamed of my wife, I'm ashamed of my daughters!" (I remember thinking what I could possibly have done at that age for him to be ashamed of me.)
After my parents divorced and my mom re-married, the messages continued. It honestly felt like there was nothing I could do to truly please my parents. Every effort fell short somehow.
I think I was 20-something before I could tell that my step-dad was genuinely proud of what I was doing (when I worked at the TV station). And that was only after months of his displeasure about the situation. He seemed to change his tune after he realized that other people were impressed by my job.
The up-side of all that was that I learned not to be overly concerned about other's opinions of me. If I gave something my best and was satisfied with the effort, that was good enough for me. And if I didn't give something my best but was content with the outcome, that was ok too.I've always been pretty good at learning by observation. Often, learning what I don't want to be by seeing it played out by someone else. That might be most true in the area of parenting. I made deliberate choices long ago to help ensure that I wouldn't be that same kind of parent to my kids.
I DON'T always get it right, but I have always tried to be intentional not to say things about their character that will lead them to believe bad things about themselves. And I try to be just as intentional to reinforce when we catch them doing something right.
In the last week Bug has finally gotten the confidence to really take off on his bike. Within days of that achievement, he got the hang of doing the monkey bars on his own. It would be easy to take it lightly and let the moment pass as just another average childhood accomplishment. But he is so excited about it and so proud of himself, I want him to know that I share that with him.
So at the park the other day I called him over to me, looked him in the eyes and said, "Six has been such a big year for you! You're reading great, you can ride your bike and do the monkey bars. You're a good big brother to Boo. I want you to know I'm proud of you and I'm so glad you're my boy."
The critical comments of my childhood have become part of my DNA. Unfortunately, I'm sure that nature creeps out far more than I intend it to. I may not always say only the uplifting things, but I do make a conscious effort to let them out as often as I can--and hopefully the encouraging far outweighs the discouraging.
And I hope, when Bug looks back, he remembers his childhood far differently than I remember mine. I hope he'll always feel, as he said today, "Being a kid is FUN!"
What kind of message do your children get from you? Maybe you can join me this week in practicing "...the law of kindness"on (your) tongue.
If you blog about anything related to Proverbs 31 (gardening, home business, budgeting, frugal living...virtually any aspect of home-making) sometime during the week, you're welcome to use Mr Linky so others can see your post (please use the URL from the specific post itself, not just your blog URL).
You can also grab the Ruby Tuesdays button code and place it in your sidebar so more of your bloggy friends can come along. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesdays to discover more ways we can become the 'gems' God intends us to be.