Preparing Your Children for Criticism

Posted on March 11, 2008 · Posted in Criticism_, Parenting

Like a coating of glaze over earthenware
       are fervent lips with an evil heart. Proverbs
6:23

A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
       and a flattering mouth works ruin. Proverbs
6:28

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
       someone else, and not your own lips. Proverbs
27:2

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
       but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs
27:6

The section of Proverbs from   6:23 – 27:6 has some profound things to say about receiving
criticism. One theme of this passage is
to warn against living for the praise of others. 

The wise man (including the wise child) is motivated by the
fear of God and the pursuit of wisdom (Proverbs 1;7; 3:11-18). When we are motivated by the praise
of others we lose the ability to be biblically objective. This is an important lesson for children to
grasp. A little boy who craves praise may well grow into a husband who will be angry
or disappointed when he receives criticism. The same child may become
discouraged and even depressed when he believes he is not being appreciated. Here
is the warning:  if you live for praise
your life will not be productive. Let’s
see how these four verses illustrate this.

Like a coating of glaze over earthenware
       are fervent lips with an evil heart.
(Proverbs 6:23)

The glaze over a piece of earthenware may conceal some
inward flaws. This analogy shows that
fervent lips (smooth lips) conceal an evil heart. Don’t trust smooth sounding
praises; they often cover an evil intent.

A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
       and a flattering mouth works ruin.
(Proverbs 6:28)

In this proverb flattery is likened to a lying tongue. Don’t trust flattery. Flattery brings disaster upon those who
listen to it as well upon the flatterer. Older children will often attempt to
manipulate younger children by using flattery. It is a kindness to prepare your
children for this eventuality of life.

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
       someone else, and not your own lips. (Proverbs
27:2)

This proverb instructs the wise man to not seek praise from
those close to him. Both Bruce Waltke and Tremper Longman, in their respective
commentaries on Proverbs, translate this verse:

Let a stranger and not
your own mouth praise you, an outsider and not your own lips.

It is not a good thing to be constantly looking for praise.
It is too easy for us to drop hints that we would really like some appreciation
for our efforts. When you hear something like, “Mommy, it took me all day and I
had to give up what I really wanted to do, but I just wanted to do this for you
anyway,” you are hearing a child preoccupied with praise. The use of the word stranger indicates that if a man really
is focused on honoring God, even a stranger will hear of his wisdom and bring
praise when it is least expected. There is no need to prompt others to herald
our praises.

  • You shouldn’t trust the lying tongue of flattery, but you should “let another praise you and not your own mouth.” How do you distinguish between flattery and legitimate praise?

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
       but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs
27:6)

This last proverb sums it up. Although we can’t trust the
flattery and praise of others, we should trust the hard things we hear. For
example, if children are to be growing to wisdom and maturity they must learn
to welcome the difficult things they need to hear—the wounds from a friend. If
a child is looking for praise he will not welcome his friend’s criticism. But
constructive criticism (even when it hurts) that comes from parents and friends
is to be welcomed. Why? Because a child who
is motivated by the fear of the Lord and the pursuit of wisdom will rejoice at information
that will make him a better son. 

So there is no need to fear the criticism of others. Because
the wise man is dominated by his love of God and wisdom he takes every
opportunity to grow in these areas.  How
valuable are the wounds of a friend to you and to your children? Such wounds are
gifts from God.

  • Does your child  have friends who give him “faithful wounds”? Do you? How do you respond when a friend gives you such a wound? Does your reaction discourage her from ever doing it again? What are your
         children learning from your responses to faithful wounds?
  • Are you a friend who is willing to give loving wounds? If not, what holds you back? This is also an important lesson to impart to your kids.

Let me know your thoughts on receiving criticism.

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