Sandwiches and Scripture don’t seem to mix. However, the “sandwich” style of writing can be seen throughout the gospels as a regular an effective method of communication. While many Christians may be aware of the “Markan Sandwiches” and may be even more familiar with the Apostle Paul’s “praise sandwich” of communication, we may not realize that we have an opportunity to adapt these structural ideas in our modern parenting priorities on how to best build our sons and daughters up in the process of guiding and correcting them.
Using Philippians as an example, Paul first praises and encourages the recipients (1:3-6). This is considered the first piece of bread. Then he shares the difficulties of his own status in advancing the Gospel, addresses the hardships of “living in Christ”, gives directions and corrections on living with purpose, and challenges the people to persevere in all circumstances (1:7 - chapter 3). These points comprise the meat, lettuce, etc. of our sandwich. Chapter four then closes with thanksgiving, praise, and encouragement. Now we have the second piece of bread. This model alone can be helpful to remind us that delivering constructive criticism is often best received when it begins and ends with praise.
Taking this idea a step further for parenting purposes, however, we can think of our communications with our children in terms of not just a “sandwich” but as a “Praise-to-Criticism Ratio”. In 2013, the Harvard Business Review published a telling article about workplace productivity that essentially concluded the following three conclusions. High performing teams praised each other between five and six times compared to every critical comment. Medium performing teams praised two times for every critical comment. Low performing teams praised only one time for every three critical comments.
While concerns have since arisen about the data collection on the research cited in this article, I wonder how we can all potentially benefit from employing a 6:1 ratio of positive to negative comments in our home. So ask yourself, “Am I close to a 6:1 ratio of positive vs. critical comments, or is it more like 1:6!”
When giving praise, make sure to consider these additional elements of practicality to achieve the best result possible.
Remember that in all areas of life, including our “Praise-to-Criticism Ratio”, we are modeling. So, be intentional and improve your pattern. If 6:1 is too dramatic of an initial shift, start with at least 2:1 or 3:1. Ask yourself how you would eventually counsel your adult children on this issue within their own home. If you would guide them to fulfill this differently with your future grandchildren, make the changes now to send an even more powerful message. As values are caught more than they are taught, taking actions to change now will mean more to your children than regretful advice that you may give to them later in life. Stay intentional in your words so that the power of perspective works to both uplift and correct your child’s spirit for a lifetime and not just a moment.
Homeschooling since 2000, Carol shares in her blog observations, confessions, and musings that help provide perspective and inspiration for homeschooling moms.