I really wish I were not so sensitive to criticism that comes my way, and I suspect many people feel the same way. Criticism often go straight to the heart and they can rip our hearts into pieces. And yet criticism isn’t necessarily bad. Proverbs tells us in many different ways the value of correction and reproof; and the wisdom of heeding it graciously and turning aside from it. So I want my children to learn how to receive criticism rightly and not be emotionally destroyed. We can learn much from criticism, as long as we are humble and have a teachable attitude.
It is exciting to see my children’s personalities develop, and we can clearly see each of their strengths and weaknesses. In some instances, I want them to be a certain way but that’s not how God made them. I wish all of them could be good at whatever they attempt, but this simply isn’t so. I wish they wouldn’t compare themselves with one another or with other people, but again, this comes so easily. I wish they wouldn’t cry or feel so dejected when they fail, but that seems quite natural as well.
I am with my children all day long. When we do school together, the children’s abilities come to the surface and it is very apparent to see who is good at certain subjects and who isn’t. They even know this. Sometimes they speak harshly to those who are less capable, and I have to step in and relieve the tension. Sometimes they get frustrated themselves because they don’t know how to overcome a problem, so once again, I step in to comfort and dry tears. Sometimes I just have to be the mean mom and bluntly utter those dreadful words: “YOU ARE NOT GOOD AT THIS.”
How do we teach the children to better receive criticism? I believe the first thing we need to do is be honest with our children. Don’t sugar coat the facts. Just say those hard words of “You are not good at this.” Children need to learn to accept this. No one can be possibly be good at everything and there’s always someone better than you. Just accept this fact. Once this is established, we can move on to how to receive critique well. Just because we may not be good at a certain subject or activity, it doesn’t mean we cannot improve or that we should not even try. I explain to my children that God made them with different gifts and talents, and we should be thankful for what God has given them. In the areas where we are weak, we can work on them and be better. Don’t compare their weaknesses with others’ strengths. As I work with the children’s weak subjects, I tell them that they can’t expect to be better overnight and that it takes a while for them to improve. Don’t lose heart but keep at it. They need to keep a humble attitude and a teachable heart so they can learn, even when it is hard.
All of us have the tendency to base our worth on the things we do. When we excel at them, we feel good because our worth just got bumped up couple notches. When we fail, our self-worth plummets. After I tell my children that they are not good at certain things, I bring in the fact that because our worth is not based on what we do but based on God’s acceptance of us, we need not feel dejected. We are made in the image of God and just because we are not good at certain things, we don’t need to feel depressed.
Ultimately, how we receive criticism is tied to how we view ourselves. If we think that our value in this world is tied to how well we can do stuff or what other people think of us, criticism becomes a nemesis — a threat to whatever efforts we’re putting in to be “better people.” But if we place our worth not in our abilities but in God’s unswerving love toward us and Christ’s accomplishments on our behalf, we can actually welcome criticism as an opportunity and not as a feared enemy.