Give Your Child the Benefit of the Doubt


The sweetness of lips increases learning... (Proverbs 16:21)

Do you remember what it’s like to be a child?

Do you remember struggling with something and being told, “Come on, it’s easy! You’re just not trying.” Or worse, “You could do better if you weren’t so lazy/careless.”

Do you remember how that felt?

What if you really were struggling? What if you couldn’t see the chalkboard, or couldn’t hear the teacher clearly? What if you just didn’t quite understand what to do? Did it help to be told that you’re not trying, or that you’re lazy, or careless? Did it make you want to come back to school, to try harder?

I rather doubt it.

If you have a child that’s not doing well with something, stop and think before you speak. If the child is generally cooperative and obedient, is there any reason to assume that he or she has suddenly become uncooperative, careless, lazy, or incompetent?

Children often don’t know how to clearly express a lack of comprehension, and parents can get tired of hearing “I don’t know how,” or “I can’t.” The child may not fully understand that the reason he feels he can’t write a book report is because he’s never seen a completed one. Often, he’ll dawdle, be mischievous, or procrastinate because he truly doesn’t know the next step.

That isn’t the child’s fault, is it?

If a child doesn’t see or hear clearly, he or she usually don’t realize it. If trees have always been green blobs, how would she know that trees don’t look like that to other people? Children can’t explain what they don’t know, so it’s important for those who love them to have their sight and hearing checked regularly, so that problems can be caught and fixed.

One of the biggest responsibilities of parenthood is to model love, grace, and kindness. Remember your own childhood, and how it felt to be unjustly accused or misunderstood. Remember how it felt when someone extended love, grace, and kindness to you, and showed patience and understanding when you had difficulties. Remember God’s love. Pass it on.

9 Responses

  1. Troy Howell says:

    “When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child….” (I sneezed as a child….) When I became a dad, I made sure my child understood me (or so I thought), but later I learned how important it was that I understand HIM. In other words, amen to what you are saying.

  2. Karen Davis says:

    Janice, I couldn’t agree more with this post! I would add to the examples that you gave that some children have a different timetable for learning that needs to be understood and respected. I also find that if I continue to be a learner myself and try new things, it reminds me just how hard it is and how I want to be treated when I make a mistake or I can’t get something right away.

  3. Brenda says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on this subject. Thank you for the reminder of thinking before speaking. Sometimes it is too easy to get frustrated with our children/teens and forget they may need “the benefit of the doubt.” I think the teens years are especially a time we need to practice what you have shared.

  4. Tina Games says:

    Excellent post, Janice! ~ It really makes us, as parents, stop and think!

    I have a son with learning challenges – and the worst thing we could ever say to him is, “You’re lazy. You’re not trying.” ~ Because he processes information in a very different way than I do, I have to take an extra step – and be patient. It’s not always easy to do, especially if I’m in a hurry. But that extra step saves both of us a lot of frustration and hurt feelings.

    ~ Tina

  5. Arby says:

    “One of the biggest responsibilities of parenthood is to model love, grace, and kindness.”

    It is a daily challenge. Some days I get it. On others days, I do not. Let’s pray that there are more of the former than the latter!

  6. Really great post. I am homeschooling one of “those” kids. While it can be frustrating, it is delightful when we hit the sweet spot in both teaching and learning. Thanks for your insights. I’ve subscribed to your daily feed. Check out my own journey in homeschooling my struggling learner at my blog, The Homeschool Regel.

  7. Rizal says:

    Anonymous 12:12 Public schools certainly have a cost, and that is paid from taxes, but they do not have an incremental price to the consumer. Private schools charge tuition, which is an incremental payment over and above the taxes the consumer pays. Home schooling has an opportunity cost since the parent gives up the income that could otherwise be generated by being in the workforce.

    • Thank you for your comment. You’re right that each type of education has a cost. As stewards of their children’s future, parents must decide what matters most. Most homeschoolers are very willing to sacrifice current income for things of more lasting value, and many actually learn to create micro-businesses or family businesses that provide streams of income to balance the equation.

      In addition to hidden fees and supply costs, public and private education have opportunity costs as well, because when a child is institutionalized for most of his/her waking hours, families lose many opportunities to spend time together learning and doing meaningful things. Students may have opportunities to participate in school activities, but lose most of their ability to participate in community arts and athletics, build micro-busiensses, go on missions trips, and develop special interests. It can be a challenging choice, but we are thankful to live in a country where we can choose how we educate our children.

  1. April 7, 2010

    […] an effect on their education than the actual schooling. Janice Campbell reminds us when teaching to Give Our Children the Benefit of the Doubt. Parent at the Helm gives us an excerpt from a book by Linda Dobson in One of Homeschooling’s […]

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