One day I was walking passed my daughters bedroom when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my daughter’s 3 year old friend emptying the last of a HUGE 100oz refill bottle of bubbles onto the carpet. She had climbed the closet shelves to the top and got down the bottle, so that she could dump it. What did I do? Did I lose my cool? No way. This wasn’t my child. I walked into the room and said, “Oh Sara, bubbles don’t go on the carpet. I think we better go outside to play now, so I can clean this up.” With that I lovingly escorted them to the yard to play, and came back in to try to fix the mess. Just so you know, 100oz of bubbles doesn’t come out of carpet. They just lather and lather and then leave a large gray stain. I smiled and cleaned up the mess with an “accidents happen” attitude. I remember wondering if I would have reacted this same way if my own child had been the one holding the bottle. What would you do? Home should be the safest place to make mistakes.
What if your toddler has an “accident” in his pants and all over the floor, because he didn’t go to the bathroom soon enough? What do you do? Do you get frustrated, sigh a deep sigh, or raise your voice? How is your voice tone? Home should be the safest place to make mistakes.
What if your son leaves your cordless phone out on the lawn and the sprinklers water it during the night? What do you do? How is your voice tone? How is your face? Home should be the safest environment to make mistakes.
What if it wasn’t your son who left the phone out? What if it was your spouse? How would you treat him? Would you tease him about it? I have learned the hard way that the rule of acceptance and not criticizing the small meaningless things also applies to my spouse too. I have found it is harder to be accepting of my spouse’s mistakes and differences than even my children’s mistakes, but accepting my spouse is definitely just as worth it. When the children see me and my husband accepting and loving each other, it reaffirms to them that we also accept the children and love them. Seeing a positive marital relationship also prepares my children for success in their future marriages.
Before I leave this topic I want to address the other side of criticism. I have said that being too critical can damage a young person. But, never giving criticism can do the same thing. What if your child grows up so protected from criticism that he can’t hold a job because he is always getting upset and offended by his boss’s criticisms? What if she becomes the kind of person who can’t ever be wrong? Life is frustrating for these kinds of people. We absolutely must criticize our children, but about what, how often, and with what tone are things we need to think about before we extend the critical remark.