Dear Critical Parent: 15 Things You Need to Know

Apr 18, 2017 | Parenting

I overheard you the other day in that public place. My heart sank because I was familiar with The words. The tone. The frustration. The pressure.

Because I was you. And I’m calling you out because I needed someone to reach out to me when I was harsh with my preschooler/elementary student/teen. Here are 10 things you need I needed to know:

  1. Your child internalizes your response and tone of voice. Did you see her eyes look down after you scolded and yelled at her? She doesn’t just take what you say as things she should strive to do better. She takes what you say and turns it into something about herself, not just her behavior.
  2. Your child is a kid. And kids are loud. They do foolish, impulsive, and selfish things. It doesn’t mean his behavior should never be reprimanded or disciplined. But kids are going to do annoying and embarrassing things. A lot of his energy and awkwardness will fade away, or maybe it’s something you’ll help him refine over the years. Most of the time he’s not intentionally being bad or weird. He’s just being a kid.
  3. Your child is different than you. Instead of fighting against your child and those differences, open your arms to who he or she is. They need to know you love them no matter what. When you’re critical, it tells them something’s wrong with who he or she is.
  4. Take the pressure off yourself that you’re projecting onto them. What’s drives your criticism? Are you afraid of what your child will be like when they’re older based on their behavior now? Are you afraid of what others think of your child? Or you? It’s important to separate your stuff from your little one. Breathe. Rest.  And take pressure off of yourself and them.
  5. Let go. Your kids need to be creative, silly, and innovative. This will require messes, loud antics, a less-than-clean house and a “great job” when you really want everything put back together. Say “yes” to creativity more often than “no.”
  6. Kids need to hear “yes” more than “no.” “No” should carry heavy weight for spiritual, emotional, and physical health and safety  When your child hears “no” all the time, it’s restrictive and stifling. As your kids grow to adolescence, they will push against your “no” because they feel you simply don’t let them do things without a good reason. When you say “no,” your let it be for an important reason.No, don’t run out on the road!” “No, you can’t go to that party alone because I don’t feel comfortable without any adults being there.” Let your “yes” be plentiful and your “no” be truly for things you want them to heed, respect, and pay attention to.
  7. Be less critical of yourself, your kids, your parenting, your house, your marriage. You’re an imperfect human and so are those you’re living with. Perfection isn’t the human condition. Don’t expect it in yourself or your kids. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your kids. Give yourself grace.
  8. Choose your battles. Let battles with your kids be worthy. Focus on moral issues and those affecting their health and safety, not personality, quirkiness, or your personal preferences. Engage in what’s truly important. You’re laying a foundation for the important years of adolescence when the real battles are fought.
  9. Your kids want to know you have their back. There are a million things against your child as soon as they step outside of home. Home is the one place they need to feel sheltered and protected. When they fall short at school and are criticized by peers, they need a safe place to land. They need encouragement from home, not criticism. They need to know that no matter what, you have their back and are safe for them.
  10. Have fun times with each of your kids. Laugh. Be silly. You’re not building a product, you’re doing life with these precious ones for just a few years.
  11. Don’t take on the criticism of others. Are others critical of your kids or how you parent them? Take their words to the Lord and ask for His perspective. You answer to God, not the stern person at Target, your mom, or the parent who thinks their way is the right way. Smile politely and let it go.
  12. Don’t take yourself or your kids too seriously. Really, lighten up. Enjoy what’s in front of you. Are your kids healthy? Do you have the financial means to support your family? Is your family free from trauma or tragedy? Then rejoice! Enjoy where your kids are now. You won’t say, “I wish I was more overbearing or critical” when your kids are older or when tragedy strikes. You will say, “I wish I learned earlier to let more things go.”
  13. You need to give up control. You can’t control your child or their behavior. They are individuals and you can’t force them to be the way you want them to be. Release them to God’s control. He is their Creator and the author of their life, personality, and bents.
  14. Some kids are harder to love. Ask God to help you love your child for who they are and to have grace for their behavior or mannerisms that drive you crazy.
  15. God is the author of grace, love, mercy, and justice. He models the balance of love and discipline. As you grow in your relationship with Him, the Holy Spirit will equip you to have a balance of love, grace, and boundaries with your kids. You and I model our Heavenly Father to our children. A critical spirit is of the enemy, not of God.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control” Galatians 5:22.

Don’t strive for these things on your own. Open your heart to your relationship with Jesus Christ. Let His power and presence permeate you and your home. Surrender each day to the Holy Spirit. Ask God to equip you to be the parent your child needs, especially the one with whom you are critical. Confess to God and your child when you are too harsh.

If you struggle with being a critical parent, you’re not alone. It’s important, however, to acknowledge when you’re critical. It’s also important to work on it. This may require reaching out to your spouse, friend, mentor, or a counselor who can help you work through the things driving the critical behavior. More than likely, there’s fear, anxiety, insecurity, or other factors driving the criticism.

If your child is strong-willed, temperamental, or has behavioral challenges, learning how to appropriately handle their challenges from professionals or those with experience will better equip you. You’ll be less stressed and can enjoy your child rather then fighting them 24/7.

I was a critical mom for a long time as a young parent. It wasn’t until my child and family were damaged that I realized something needed to change.

I needed someone to say, “Stop! Take a time out.”

I needed someone to say, “Brenda, she needs encouragement more than criticism.”

I needed someone to not judge me when I reached out for help.

I needed to know I wasn’t alone in the struggle and that there are resources and help.

I needed to work on my stuff rather than dumping it on my child.

Accountability is not shaming. Shame is what you see in your child’s eyes when you realize how much you have hurt them.

Redemption is what comes from your Savior’s eyes when you go to Him asking for forgiveness. He creates newness in you that you can’t do yourself.

He restores the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). As you daily receive His grace, walk in the newness of life only He gives.

Because your kids start a new day with you, too.

Father, take my critical spirit. I can’t change it on my own. I need you to open my heart to you and to take away my struggle, whether it’s personal or with my child. Thank you for your redemption and for healing damage I may have already done. 


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  1. Jennie Gorsuch

    Thank you so much for this!! I love all of the detail so meaningful and helpful, your timing was a blessing!

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      You are welcome Jennie. God is faithful for timing, isn’t He?

  2. Beverly Miller

    Beautifully said Brenda. Thank you for your encouragement and grace for parents as well as grandparents. Words so easily said, so hard to take back.

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      Thank you–and I’m so thankful you’ve been encouraged as a grandparent!

  3. carissa yoder

    Good reminders! The saying Yes jumped out at me. In the crazy busy seasons, I hear the word No flying out of my mouth before I even process the request.
    Here is to more Yes!

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      Yay to more yes! With multiple kids, I know this is even harder….it’s just easier to say “no!”

  4. Gigi Murfitt

    Thank you for this post, Brenda. Wonderfully vulnerable and full of grace.

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