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How can I stop being judgmental of my teenagers? I grew up with constant criticism from my parents. I don’t want to hurt my children like I was hurt, but I can’t seem to stop being critical. Help!

The first thing to realize is that we are all guilty of being judgmental. We admire or dislike someone’s looks or clothes or manners. We (mostly subconsciously) decide to befriend or avoid a person. Or we feel something positive or negative about someone—envy, disgust, admiration—but say nothing. Generally we are quite unaware we are evaluating and judging people against some standard we learned and internalized in childhood.

In your case, however, because of your parents’ hypercriticism, and also because you remember what it felt like to be attacked, you are struggling against your own thoughts. Good for you. You know there is a better way to help your children navigate their roads to adulthood, and you are determined to support rather than hurt them. Notice that you made the decision to continue trying to stop being judgmental by exercising good judgment!

Forgiveness is the key to your own healing. Start by forgiving yourself, and give yourself some slack when you criticize your kids unnecessarily. Also, spend time in prayer forgiving your parents. When a hurtful incident of the past comes to your mind, choose to pray blessings and forgiveness for them, rather than rehearsing anger and hurt even though you have a right to those feelings.

Also, you are in good company. Read again Romans 7:14-20. Notice Paul’s struggle and feel his frustration with himself. Sound familiar? Let that be a comfort to you.

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