3. Praise more than you criticize.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having high expectations for our children. Our Heavenly Father has high expectations for his children. But his expectations are realistic, and he has provided the means whereby we are able to achieve those expectations. [In a study we conducted] the teens and young adults of our study did not oppose or rebel against the high expectations of their parents. They clearly understood that parents want them to do right and to reach their potential, which is also what the youth want. They don’t want to be slackers, nor do they want their parents to eliminate all expectations.
What bothers them, however, is when their parents have unrealistic expectations, when they’re not content with anything less than top-of-the-class academic achievement, world championships in sports, and award-winning performances in the school play. Hundreds of the youth in our study complained that their parents’ high expectations often caused them to see only their shortcomings rather than their accomplishments. . . .
There may be times when our children need constructive criticism. We would be wise if we view those moments as a wise doctor views medicine needed by an ailing patient. Even medicine can be a poison, so it must be administered in the correct dosage. An overdose can kill.
[Here are a few ways to curtail criticism:]
Accentuate the Positive
It is discouraging for anyone, but especially adolescents who naturally struggle with feelings of inadequacy, to feel as if nothing they do is ever good enough. Generous praise is a motivator. Buoyed up by praise rather than discouraged by a barrage of criticism, our children will try harder and do better.
Forgive and Forget
How grateful we should be that the Lord remembers our sins no more, provided we repent of them. Unfortunately, we sometimes aren’t as merciful with our children as the Lord is with us. The comments from the young people in our study concerning their parents’ apparent unwillingness to forgive and forget were almost as numerous as the comments about parents being overly critical and stingy with praise. Many of the teens and young adults said their parents would “hold things over my head” or “throw things back in my face,” even many years after an event.
Show Forth Increased Love
There is no greater gospel or priesthood leadership than that done within the context of the everlasting family. . . . We are familiar with the charge to show increased love after discipline, but the phrase “lest he esteem thee to be his enemy” is vital to understanding why.
All of us have the natural urge to emotionally recoil when we have been chastened. We may feel a sting of hurt, disappointment, and maybe even some degree of embarrassment. Similarly, children, including teens, commonly feel somewhat rejected by their parents when they are disciplined. Because the behavior that elicited the discipline results in some form of disappointment (sometimes even anger) from Mom and Dad, it is quite common for children to feel emotionally estranged. For these reasons, it is vitally important for parents to reach out with expressions of increased love and acceptance.
For more powerful tips and tools to help your relationship with your children, check out 10 Secrets Wise Parents Know: Tried and True Things You Can Do to Raise Faithful, Confident, Responsible Children.
When it comes to raising your children, how do you know what works? One way is to go to the kids themselves and ask them, which is exactly what researchers and authors Brent L. Top and Bruce A. Chadwick have done. Based on a major, 10-year study they conducted with more than 5,000 LDS teens and an additional 1,000 young adults, they have honed in on 10 parenting principles that surfaced again and again in the happiest families.