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Teaching Children How to Receive Criticism

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.


Posted in Children, Homeschooling, Parenting.

Our Family’s Nightly Routine

Over the course of 11 years we finally settled into a more consistent family nightly routine.  It’s one we tried, failed, retried, and finally gelled into a workable routine for our family.

About an hour before bedtime, we have the children get changed into their PJ’s and have their teeth brushed.  We then start our nightly routine of Bible recitation by the children per our newly instituted speech practice.  After giving some feedback of each reading, we may discuss a little of the specific Bible passage the child just read.

After the reading, we listen to a story, either from an audio book or a book read by my husband.  Currently we are listening to The Swiss Family Robinson audio book.  During this time we just sit in the family room and listen and relax. The children are typically drawing, crocheting, playing with their toys, or doing other quiet activities in the meantime.

We then transition to a time of prayer.  We share prayer requests and count our blessings, and after which we inquire if anyone wants to pray for a specific prayer request.  Typically everyone except the toddler prays, and we end with daddy’s final prayer.  The prayer time is my personal favorite time.  I love the fact that prayers from the children are very simple.  As sure as the sun rises, you can count on our four-year-old pray this prayer each night:  “Dear God, help us to have good sleep.”  I just never get tired of this same prayer.  As adults we think we can somehow please God more by sprucing up our prayers, especially with fancy words or long and complicated sentences.  As I dwell on this, I think God is very much please with simple prayers, especially from little children.  I’m encouraged by my children’s simple prayers and I believe God hears and accepts them.

Finally we give hugs and kisses and the kids go to sleep happily ever after.  Well, no, almost never.  They like to stay up just a little so they plead.  Often we find them chatting or singing amongst themselves in the dark.  More recently we caught one or two children reading secretly with a flashlight.  Unbeknown to us, the children have a secret stash of books in their beds, accompanied by a small flashlight.  Their antics never fail to crack me up.

Posted in Our Family.

School Assignment Chart

A year ago I came up with the school cards system where each student must complete daily school assignments as printed on individual cards.  While this system worked fabulously, I modified it to better serve our homeschooling needs.

All the school assignments are now printed on one chart.  When a student completes a subject, he/she marks it off.  At the end of the day I’m able to see at a glance what subjects are still outstanding for each student, all on one sheet.  This new system saves me time because I can easily see what subjects still need to be done.  The assignment chart is color coded, laminated, and hung on our refrigerator.  The chart can be reused because all the markings are wiped off at the start of each week, ready for the new week.

The laminated assignment chart adhered to the refrigerator, next to the laminated chore chart.

Close up view of the charts.



Posted in Homeschooling, Photos.

My Minion Army

My kids really like the movie Despicable Me, especially for all those whimsical little minions:

Looking at these minions cheer me up.  I decided to crochet some minion hats for my children using this free pattern.  The kids got to pick their own designs and I gleefully crocheted each one.

My very first minion hat per my firstborn’s choice:


Even the youngest one has one of his own:

My minion army minus the youngest one:

Posted in Children, Crafts, Photos.

Overcoming the Challenges of Learning a New Skill

From time to time my kids cry over their school assignments because they find them hard.  Here are some examples:

  • One of my more competent children through tears told me that he didn’t want to learn piano anymore because it was too hard.  He kept playing the same song but there was always a mistake.  No matter how he practiced, his fingers just wouldn’t land on the right keys.
  • Today, a different child cried about how difficult her typing lesson was because it was all about typing special punctuation marks such as ?, “, and :.
  • After a swim lesson at the swim school, I discovered a child crying because she was learning a new swimming stroke and it was hard to master.
  • One child struggled tremendously with writing because words didn’t come easy to him and punctuation stumped him.  Frustrations eventually led to tears.
  • Another child struggled to read and realized she is not as fluent as the other children.

With nine years of homeschooling experience, I have more crying stories to tell.  I think from time to time they just need to cry a little, and I let them cry – but not to the point of sulking and dwelling on it.  It’s a great opportunity to talk to them about perseverance, diligence, patience, and character.

It is important to discuss with them the exact problem they are experiencing, the reason they are crying, and what we can do about it.  Learning a new skill is just plain hard, whether for children or for adults.  It is natural to hit a wall and feel stuck.  Our reaction is frustration.  As adults we know better not to cry, most of the time, but for children, tears are very natural.

First, I ask them specifically what is causing their distress, and they can often tell me the exact problem.  I want my children to know that I’m in it with them because they are not left alone to deal with the problem.  I have them show me the situation and together we work on it.  Usually I’m able to give them few pointers to ease the problem.  If a new piano piece is causing so much emotions, we can break up the song into sizable chunks.

Second, I tell them that doing something hard and have a new skill stump them is perfectly normal.  In fact, we should expect that.  We simply need to persevere and work hard.  Through patience and perseverance, we can learn the new skill, but just don’t have the idea that it will happen overnight.

Third, I point them to their past successes.  For the child who was struggling to learn breaststroke swimming style, I pointed her back to the time when she didn’t know how to swim to eventually learning freestyle and backstroke.  She overcame the fear of water, learned two different swimming styles, and is currently a competent swimmer.  She should take pride in these accomplishments.  Her past successes should encourage her to persevere as she works through the new swimming style.

Lastly, I tell my kids that working through something difficult shapes their character and this is very important.  If I let them quit, they will never learn to work through challenges to achieve greater things.  I want my children to know that I, too, struggle with learning new things and I, too, get frustrated.  They are not alone.  Even as an adult, I have the same struggle.  I also have to persevere and work things through.

I am encouraged that my children typically have a renewed spirit after such talk.  They are able to move past their tears and work through the problem… until next time. :)

Posted in Homeschooling.

Using the Bible as a Big Stick

As Christians we are prone to use the Bible as a big stick (or in other words, a big 2×4). What do I mean by this?  When we encounter someone who isn’t living wisely, it’s so easy to pick out a specific passage from the Bible to point out how this person is failing per the Bible’s standards.  Metaphorically speaking, we use the Bible as a 2×4 to hit the person over the head so as to whip this person into action and to live morally.

I can be easily be misunderstood by saying this.  I am not saying that the Bible should never be used to reveal another’s wrong paths and sins.  In fact, I believe the Bible is the word of God given to us for teaching, admonishing, and correcting (in addition to encouraging, hope-giving, and directing).  The Bible is in fact given as the perfect means for us to measure up and see how far we’ve deviated and failed.  It points out our sins, failings, and brokenness.  What I’m speaking out against is how we often go about using the Bible when employing it as a tool for correction.

Too often we use the Bible in such a negative way that people, whether Christians or not, are put off by the way we use it and not simply by the Bible itself.  We fail to see that the Bible is described as lamp to my feet, honey to my mouth, or water to my parched mouth.  All these conjure up images of people being refreshed, and they bring delight.  Do we present the Bible in such a way, even when correcting others?  When we parent our children, do we merely use the Bible to tell them how wrong they were?  Is that the only time the Bible comes out of its bookcase?  When we interact with people who are sharing their struggles, do we merely whip out the Bible to tell them how they’ve failed (which they already know!)?

I often think about 10-15 years from now when my kids are out of the house and are on their own.  When they look back to their growing-up years, what kind of images, ideas, and impressions would they have about God and His Word?  Would they have a distaste in their mouths at the mere thought of the Bible?  Would the most prominent metaphor they have for God’s precious Word — described honey, water, lamp, treasure, etc. in the Psalms — be that of a big 2×4?  Would they simply think Scripture as “what Mom and Dad busted out to beat me down when I failed?”  Or… would they look to Scripture as a source of not only reproof but refreshment; not only correction but hope; not only instruction but inspiration?

I believe our children’s evaluation of the Bible will be largely influenced by us, their parents.  We have so much influence over their lives and we need to be careful how we present the Bible in our daily lives.  When we use the Bible as a moral code, we missed the gospel (and it’s usually not far from a reality that we ourselves have failed to see the Bible as little more than a moral instruction manual).  We need to exhibit grace, long-suffering, and patience towards our children, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  After all, the one who died for us had already shown us grace and mercy.  There is really no room for arrogance and self-righteousness.  The gospel is sweet and is good news.  Let us not “beat” someone with it.  Let us show them the sweetness of it.

Posted in Theology in Life.

DVD Review: “What Did You Expect?”

A couple of years ago, my husband and I bought a multi-DVD marriage seminar taught by Paul David Tripp, who has years of experience as a counselor and a seminary professor teaching on the subject. Tripp is the author of a book of the same name. Both the book and DVDs are titled What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.  We watched the DVDs over the course of several months.  Once a week after the children had gone to sleep, the two of us watched a session.  This was our weekly date night for some time.

Each of the ten sessions is only 25 minutes long which makes the content very digestible, especially for frequently sleep-deprived folks such as us.  The DVDs are video recordings of a marriage seminar he taught in a church setting and are accompanied by PDFs with discussion guides, making it appropriate for both a couple to talk about or in a small group setting. Even though the free leader’s guide and a discussion guide are provided, we did not use it as we already found ourselves discussing the content taught in the DVDs at various times during the week.

The emphasis of this workshop is that often we enter marriage with unrealistic expectations – of ourselves and of our spouses. Tripp explores why that is, and how we can navigate a course of marital blessing through the waters of inevitable selfishness, conflict and sin. We appreciated his insights from both Scriptures applied to marital contexts as well as his ability to synthesize wisdom gleaned from years of counseling couples (and himself!)

Our marriage benefited from these DVDs and I wholeheartedly recommend it to engaged couples, newlyweds and longtime couples alike!

Posted in Reviews.