When Words Hurt

I was picking up my daughter from the nursery at church. The worker seemed annoyed, so I asked if everything went alright. She started by telling me briefly about her job, but I can’t remember what she said because for a moment I was so confused by her words. But then came the rest of her explanation –

If you spent less time trying to teach her to read at 3, and more time disciplining her then she wouldn’t be so difficult to handle.

I was crushed.

What she didn’t know is that I wasn’t trying to teach my daughter to read at all. She just was picking up books and watching Sesame Street. Didn’t know that I was exhausted because it seemed all I did was discipline and direct this little ball of energy. She didn’t know that I was struggling with how to train her to listen to me, when all this little one wanted to to was talk and move and ask questions. so many questions. This tired nursery worker just assumed something, based on the 40 minutes she spent with my precocious toddler and judged my parenting.

So how do you respond to such a statement?

Control Your Words

Well, first of all. Don’t punch anyone. Try not to burst into messy tears or incoherent shouts. You could do what I did and just say “okay,” walk away, then cry when you get home. But I’ve learned a little since then and when criticism creeps in, this is what I try to do.

Consider the source.

If someone responds to you in what seems to be a knee-jerk reaction do you best to nod, smile, and move on. You are getting a reaction that’s probably based on a heck of a lot more than just what your child did during their time in the nursery. I’m not saying to make excuses for poor behavior, but unless you have a better-than-acquaintance relationship with this person, correcting them in the heat of the moment is not going to end well. Sometimes even if you do have a good relationship, it’s best to get our feelings under control before we respond.

If it’s a really good, trusted friend that is bringing you honest concern – calm yourself down and listen to their words. And always –

Weight it against Scripture.

When that woman told me that I wasn’t disciplining my child enough, it made me examine my parenting. Was I disciplining and teaching my daughter? Yep. Was I trying hard to do what I believed God wanted in my parenting? So very hard. Her words were not easy to brush off, but when I weighed them against what God calls parents to do I realized that while I was no where near perfect – I was trying. I also realized that no two children are the same and while her children may have responded quickly to discipline, mine did not.

Talk to a trusted friend.

When I really started to see that my daughter did not respond quickly to correction, I asked for help. After a long talk, and armed with a pile of books, I read and realized that there are no quick formulas to child-rearing. No easy answers. But there are basic building blocks, and that is what my friend reminded me that day. Structure, prayer, correction, gentleness (still working on that one), repentance, and forgiveness. Any time I’m feeling worn down by parenting, talking to friends is always an encouragement to me.

Recently I listened to an episode of the At home podcast about the seasons of motherhood. One of the ladies brought up a difficult season that was years long, while working through a character issue with one of her children. She ended it with encouraging other moms –

“It could be years where you’re in a hard stage with one particular aspect of your child’s behavior or character but don’t give up. That doesn’t mean you’re not diligently working on it.”


That quote made me tear up while I was on my morning walk. Few might see it or understand what you’re going through with your child that’s in a difficult season – that doesn’t mean you’re not being diligent. God knows your heart, mommas. Focus on His calling for you, which is to raise the children He gave you. Encourage one another. Trust the Lord, that He will call your children to Him. It will take time, but God will honor your efforts.  Trust a mom that has been through it with a precocious one (or more than one!)  – all of your efforts are worth it.

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