I live in the city where I grew up as a boy until I graduated from high school. All over this area are special places that warm my heart when I see them and recall events that occurred there. Places have special meaning to us because they are associated with a special relationship. One such special place is Jake Miller Field at Brahan Spring Park and the special person with whom I remember it is my father.
I was in the sixth grade and it was in the summer. The bases were loaded, it was the bottom of the sixth inning, and we were down one run with two outs. I came up to the plate terrified, not wanting to bat, but to run away. The prospect of failure with everyone watching me and my team depending on me was square on my shoulders. It was now or never.
I struck out and we lost the game. The coach spoke to us for a few minutes afterward and then we were dismissed. Tears were close to my eyes and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. My father was at the game and as we walked to the car I finally couldn’t hold back the tears and they cascaded down my face. As we walked Dad had his big hand resting gently on my back.
I said, “Dad, I lost the game for us. I struck out”. And then I cried some more. I was very serious about my comments. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to play baseball again. It wasn’t a time when I needed coaching or correction; I needed affirmation, encouragement and praise.
Dad replied, “Son, you didn’t lose the game. You were just the last batter. There were a lot of plays the whole game that people didn’t make that could have made the difference. It’s a team game and you did fine. I played baseball, too, and struck out a lot. It happens to everyone”.
He continued to speak hope into my heart at a very vulnerable time in my life. I still remember it. In fact, I still recall where we had our team meeting, the dugout we were in, and the path Dad and I walked to go to the car. (The field is still there forty years later exactly the way it was back then). His wisdom and love shown through his words drew my heart to him. He’s been gone for five years now, but I still treasure that moment.The Bible instructs fathers (and mothers) to “…provoke not your children to wrath…” (Ephesians 6:4). This means we must be especially careful not to give our children cause to be angry. One way we anger our children is when we fail to encourage them, but rather 0verly criticize and correct them. Maybe one reason I rarely got angry with my dad was because he didn’t dwell on negative things, but the positive that I had done. He did that with everyone.
Parents should excel as encouragers. While criticism can motivate for the short-term, encouragement will for the long-term. Also, it will draw you closer to your child. When a child only hears from his parent when he has done wrong or made a mistake it discourages him. Who wants to spend time with someone that is always correcting them and sees them as a project rather than a person?
The Heavenly Father modeled this for us after His Son fulfilled His will by being baptized. The Father said to those that were listening after this event, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. (Matthew 3:17) Christ, as the Son of God, lived as a man in dependence upon His Father.
I believe these words spoken at the outset of His ministry were of incredible blessing to Jesus Christ. (The Heavenly Father did the same thing another time in Matthew 17:5). If Christ needed affirmation, how much more do your children?
Paul used encouragement as a key tool in his discipling of new believers – “As ye know how we exhorted…every one of you, as a father doth his children”. (I Thessalonians 2:11) He compares spiritual parenting to literal parenting and states that this is a responsibility of a father – “…as a father doth his children”. Also, he makes mention that this was not done corporately, but personally – “every one of you”.
Our children need to hear personal and detailed words of encouragement that apply specifically to them. This means you have to be on the lookout for ways to offer affirmation and praise. One of the purposes of those in authority is to be looking for things not only to correct, but to praise. For example, the purpose of government is to punish those that do wrong and to praise those that do well.
The Bible says that “…governors…are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well”. (I Peter 2:13-14)
I heard about a community that took this principle and applied it within their police department. In that area you might be driving along and see the flashing lights on the police cruiser behind you and wonder why they are pulling you over. You weren’t speeding; your vehicle wasn’t weaving on the road; the tag is current. Why are you getting a ticket?
The officer comes alongside your car and says, “Ma’am, I noticed that you pulled to a complete stop at this intersection. We have been having problems with people slowing down and ignoring the stop sign. I wanted to thank you and give you a gift certificate from this restaurant for obeying the law. Have a nice day”. Companies provided these certificates as a means to help the officers do this (and I’m sure it was good for their business, too!).
Sounds radical, but it works and even more – it is biblical! Authority is to “praise…them that do well”. There’s a reason for this. The reward of doing right rather than the punishment of doing wrong is a tremendous incentive to repeat the behavior. The same is true for parents. Praise your children for doing well.
Many years ago I was at a basketball game and watched an interesting scenario play out as the coach had his son on the team. He was an excellent player and did well. I have always been fascinated by leadership and try to learn from many different arenas. The lesson I took away from the basketball game was not good.
The coach had no positive words for any of his players and constantly criticized them (which isn’t good coaching, just a part of it and only if it is constructive). The saddest part was that he was most difficult on his son. I soon lost interest in the game and watched the way the coach tried to motivate the guys. It was a tight atmosphere in the huddle during every time out.
If you parent your children this way (even if it’s from a good motive to stretch them) they will be tempted to become angry with you over your daily barrage of negative comments. Sure, correction is necessary and biblical in parenting, but so is praise. If your correction outweighs your praise your children will soon, at best, avoid you and, at worst, become bitter believing that you do not like them.
One management method that used to be popular is the “sandwich approach” when trying to correct someone. That is, first find something to praise them and start with that area. Then, bring up the complaint and share that with them. Finally, close the meeting out with another positive comment about their work. The idea is that it reduces the tense environment and shows them you value them.
Parents sometimes incorporate that approach into the way they correct their children, too. It has a flaw in it, however. After you have used it for awhile when they hear the initial praise they brace themselves for the rebuke and never hear the first or closing words that are positive. What is meant to encourage does the exact opposite.
Far better is it to simply be known for finding positive things in their life and letting them know them on a regular basis….without a single word of criticism. Then when you have to deal with a negative issue in their life you have a relationship that is marked with more positive interactions than negative.
Many years ago I was at a “coach pitch” baseball game. These are children that are 7-8 years old. A friend of mine was there to watch his son play. His son went to the plate to hit and was visibly nervous. My buddy got up from his seat and leaned on the fence close to where his son could hear him and he began to try to motivate him with his words.
The problem was that some of the things he was telling him at the moment were negative things. (They probably needed to be said in terms of the boy improving, but there is a time and place that is better for that conversation).
As the little guy tried harder the worse he did. The father began to give him advice while his son stood in the batter’s box, afraid of failure. The dad was a good man and a close friend. I knew that he had struggled with his own father as he grew up. His dad rarely praised him, continually elevated the bar for success, and was known for being critical of his son, even in front of other people. Now, the father that had grown up with little affirmation was (unintentionally) doing the very same thing to his son.
After a several pitches the dad increased the intensity of his advice and correction. I did something I rarely do; I decided to rebuke my friend. As my friend leaned on the fence I left my seat in the bleachers and stood next to him and bent over and whispered the name of his father in his ear.
My friend looked at me with a stunned look and realized what was happening and immediately stopped the public coaching clinic. We went and sat back down together in the bleachers. Some of the pressure was off of his son to perform now.
He wasn’t a bad man, loved his son very much, and was communicating the best he knew how to help him. But his son didn’t perceive it as love, but as reminding him of how far he was from the standard of success.
The Bible says that “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” (Proverbs 12:18) In other words, some are known for their cutting words that hurt and others are known for their gracious words that heal.
Today your words will either draw your family closer to you or they will cause them to avoid you. Perhaps they are tired of being corrected and feeling their heart being perpetually cut and hurt. May we find something instead to praise and do so regularly. It’s really not that difficult. We simply need to change our focus. It’s a great way to keep your children from developing anger toward you as their parent.
William Arthur Ward wrote, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you”.