Arguably one of the most difficult jobs of parenting is Correcting our Children with Care. It takes so much out of us physically as they are younger, and then it takes a bit more emotionally as they grow. If you’re anything like me, receiving corrections was not something I cared for growing up. I’ve come to find out, though, that it is a vital part of relationships — even as adults.
What matters most, is how the correction is shared. We’ve all been around someone (or have been that person – eek!) who has let loose their correction in a less-than-loving way.
When my kids were a few years younger, I was shopping with them at a local grocery store where you are required to bag your own groceries. I had steered the cart towards a section of counter space, where we could put our bags up and begin packing them. My middle child, having gone on ahead of me, decided to climb up on the counter when my back was turned. I asked him to get down, and he proceeded to walk across the counter to me, instead of getting down right away and coming around to me on the ground. The person next to me exploded their thoughts onto me with, “What’s wrong with you? How could you let him do that? Don’t you know people put their food up here? And now his shoes have been all over this counter where people put their food!” As she turned around to get a paper towel and spray from the cashier to wipe the counter, I could hear her saying “I would never let my child do that. Never!”
I felt my face turn red and get hot from the intensity of her words and the stares of those around me. I simply wanted to run and hide, but felt frozen in my place. I think I stammered a “sorry,” and loaded my bags into my cart as quickly as I could and ran out of the store.
This person was attempting to correct my parenting, but it certainly did not help me as a mother of three young children. When we release our frustrations out in that way, more often than not, the intensity of it is too much for the mind of the recipient to get the message.
As Jen mentioned in her last blog, this type of correction is what we would consider toxic shame. This person did not call out the best in me and my identity, their motives were to preserve their counter space and groceries. (Please know, I did talk with my son about his choice and how we need to not do that again because of germs and being considerate of others’ space. So, I fully understand the frustration on that person’s behalf.)
The 4 Habits book also calls this toxic correction, where it “is motivated by self-interest.” (p. 41) Examples of correction with this self-interest are:
- “I don’t want to be embarrassed by you.”
- “I don’t want you to think you can beat me.”
- “I don’t want people to think of me negatively.”
- “I don’t want this to be so hard.”
At some point, we are all guilty of this to an extent in our parenting journey. But there is good news! We can ask for forgiveness and repair that damage. And we can look at how to correct through a different lens. “There are two principles we want to keep in mind for every situation:
- We want to correct behavioral problems with our child’s growth in mind (not our personal comfort or concern over our image.)
- We want to correct behavioral problems in a way that keeps our relationship with the child bigger than the problem.” (p. 42) Like Jen said last time, we do this by focusing our correction on the behavior and their identity.
The most important part of correcting (and raising!) our children is to remain relational and connected to them. For more help with how to do this and keep the relationship bigger than the problem, I can’t recommend The Joy Switch enough.
Feel free to share your takeaways from either of these books (or this post) in the comments below!