Last week my husband suggested that I more carefully “choose battles” with my twin 16-year olds. Spending so much time together during the summer apparently had me criticizing them about “stupid things”.
While I might have dismissed my husband’s comment ;), I was convicted while reading a statement from Ruth Graham, located in the book: Billy Graham in Quotes. She writes, “Never let a single day pass without saying an encouraging word to each child…” (pg. 41).
That hit me hard because my son was nearby looking sad. Not mad, not angry, just disappointed that I suggested he get a haircut. His hair is one of the battles that I’ve (for the most part) kept quiet about because he is a hockey player and having “sick flow” that sticks out of the back of the helmet is quite the rage. I looked up from my book to see his expression which probably had less to do with the haircut and more to do with the previous hour.
“Your bedroom floor is always a mess. Why don’t you bring the laundry when you go upstairs? Did you seriously just leave the door open again, letting out the air conditioning?! Can you please, just once, put the wet towels in a separate laundry basket?! Did you read anything today or just watch TV?”
His response? “Mom, I cleaned all three bathrooms, did the dishes, and took out the garbage. Did you notice those things?” I had, but instead of praising the good, I focused on what needed “improvement”.
Leaving my kids with heavy hearts due to “unnecessary comments” is a change I need to make. So, I decided to abandon criticism and my drill sergeant tone of voice. Within two hours, my resolution was a vapor and I promptly had something to say about my daughter’s shirt neckline being too low.
Her response? “Go ahead, make me feel bad again about the clothes I wear!” All I heard was “again…” I immediately tried to diffuse the situation, but she waved me off and stormed down the hall.
I have three really good teenagers and the four of us are particularly close. This fact makes it especially terrible that I don’t always think before I talk. I questioned why I am continually in their business and realized that although they have grown into young adults, often, I still attend to them as if they were ten. There’s a major mind shift required by parents when kids become “upper-teens”. Where monitoring the amount of texting and TV time was previously a sign of good parenting, during these years, such things become “battles”.
My daughter was recently watching “baby videos”, as we’ve been transferring old VHS tapes into DVDs of the kids when they were little. All you hear are praises and encouragements spewing out of my husband and I on those tapes. “Good boy!” “Great job!” given with serious enthusiasm from both of our “big” personalities. Staring at the screen, I was reminded that those adorable cherub faces at 4 years old are the same people, just in bigger bodies…needing the same encouragement but less micro-management. I again resolved to eliminate criticism.
It’s been a week since my resolution went into effect and it has been exceedingly more influential upon me than my kids. I’ve picked up the laundry several times to find wet towels on top of good clothes. The door is continuously left open on 80+ degree days. They’ve plopped down to watch television while a mountain of clean laundry the size of Everest sat directly in front of them, waiting to be folded. My mouth has either remained zipped or I’ve gently asked they take the clothes upstairs to their rooms.
What an enormous exercise in self-control. About “choosing battles”? There is already a societal and spiritual battle raging to destroy our kids. I’m not “choosing battles”. While I’m still making suggestions, I’m “choosing encouragement”. 1Thess5:11