Correction is a Gift
Correcting children can be exasperating. Part of the problem happens when children respond poorly. They don’t appreciate your suggestions or advice. Instead they become defensive, offer excuses, blame others, or even blame themselves. This resistance causes children to miss the benefits of correction. Of course, it’s not just a kid problem. Many adults respond poorly when a mate offers some helpful criticism or a boss requires change.
Correction is A Great Way to Learn
Correction has a number of benefits. Some people have to learn painful lessons through experience before they’ll change, while others respond quite well to a rebuke or critique. Correction is one of the tools for learning in life. You might want to engage your kids in a helpful dialogue by asking the question, “How many different ways can you list that people learn?” For example, from a teacher or from a book. Allow them to list as many as they can think of and then say, “I can think of one you haven’t mentioned.” Then reveal your answer. “People learn things through correction.” The sooner a child can appreciate correction, the faster that child will mature.
One fun activity you can do with your children to illustrate the value of correction is to come into the kitchen with a three-foot piece of toilet paper hanging from the back of your shirt collar. It won’t take long for your child to notice and make a comment. React defensively by saying something like, “Why do you always pick on me? I don’t need to be criticized. There’s nothing wrong with the way I’m dressed.”
You might provoke your child’s curiosity by walking close or swinging around near the child. When your child pursues you to grab the toilet paper, run away saying something like, “I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not my fault. People are always picking on me and blaming me for everything.”
Of course when it’s all over take time to talk about how important correction is in our lives. In fact you might read Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” (We don’t use the word “stupid” in our home, but it’s interesting that God uses it in this verse.) Does that verse say that the person who is corrected is stupid? No. It says that the person who hates correction is stupid. Why do you think it says that? Maybe it means that the person who doesn’t want to be corrected will look stupid.
Kids Need to View Correction Differently
Children need a vision for the benefits of correction. Talk to your kids about things you’ve learned when others have corrected you. Invite your children to correct you in a particular area of your life you’re working on. (Of course, they need to learn how to give advice or point out a problem in a gracious way.) Explain how people miss out on the benefits of correction because of a poor response to it. Explore with children the reasons why people don’t like to be corrected. These discussions can open the door for children to rethink their own responses.
Heeding correction helps a person become wise. It’s better to avoid a trap through correction than to fall into it and have to learn from experience. In fact, many of the valuable lessons of life are learned through correction in one form or another. Although children may not appreciate it, the correction they receive from you is a gift and your persistence can provide them with the wisdom they need both now and for the future.
Tara is a mother of two very different children. Sammy is ten and Christopher is eight. Sammy often has to learn the hard way while Christopher is more responsive to correction. “I have to approach my kids in different ways. With Christopher I can do a lot more explaining and he’s likely to respond well to that. With Sammy I have to set more firm limits and give consequences. Some lessons I don’t want him to learn from life so my consequences become the roadblocks and life experience for him. It’s hard because he resists me, but I know that he needs me or he’d be in big trouble.”
Parents Too Must Adjust Their Perspective
Of course parents must also recognize the value of correction in order to have the perseverance to hang in there in spite of resistance. Too often parents view correction as an interruption to their lives. They have their agenda and goals for a day. Correction blocks those goals and puts a crimp on the agenda. But think about it for a moment. It’s during correction that you have the opportunity to say some of the most important things you may say today.
Be sure to leave margin in your life for correction times so that you won’t be unduly pressured. But, more importantly, recognize that correction is a valuable tool for teaching children about life. It may be difficult at times, but the hard work will be worth it in the end. Proverbs 6:23 says, “The corrections of discipline are the way to life.” The word “life” in that passage is referring to a quality of life. The point is that the person who values correction and learns from it will benefit greatly. Correction is an important part of parenting. Although it can be frustrating to correct a resistant child, it’s part of your job to do so.
When children are wrong and need correction they often must undergo a process of internal acceptance of the wrong and a willingness to move in a new direction. That’s heart work. If you are firm against their resistance, children are forced to adjust their thinking. Be firm and willing to correct a resistant child over and over again in order to help that child move to another way of responding to life.
Correction often needs time and persistence to be effective. Rarely do children learn a lesson with one episode. Most need many passes over the same truth in order to catch the importance of change.