A few years ago, my adorable niece, Lizzy, decided she wanted to learn to play the cello. Her parents agreed, and she started lessons. Highly skilled, Lizzy’s teacher taught with precision and sharp criticism of her posture, her intonation, her bow strokes, everything. After just a few months of cello lessons, Lizzy was ready to give up. She told her mom, “I’m not cut out for the cello. Everything I do is wrong. I just don’t have any talent.”

Her wise mother replied, “Let’s give it one more try with another teacher.”

Nervous and with low expectations, Lizzy went to a trial lesson with another local teacher. As she played a simple melody on her cello, the teacher clapped with delight, “Oh that’s gorgeous! Now, just raise your elbow bit here. I’d love to see a longer bow stroke there. Move your third finger just a bit. You’re a beautiful cellist!”

Blooming under this encouragement, Lizzy sat up a bit straighter, listened to every word from her new teacher and agreed to come back for another lesson the next week. In the days between lessons, Lizzy practiced more and practiced better (because she knew exactly what to work on!). Her second lesson was even better than the first and over weeks and months and years, Lizzy became a truly accomplished cellist.

Now, here’s the important part of this story—Lizzy always had the ability to become a skilled cellist, she just needed to listen to the right teacher.

We all have two voices in our heads. The negative voice, like the negative cello teacher, tells you everything awful going on around you, all your mistakes, everything wrong with you. This is the voice of fear, the voice of discouragement, you could even call it the voice of Satan.

The positive voice, like the good cello teacher, whispers, “You’ve got this!” “Just make this small change.” “Keep trying.” This is the voice of God, your beloved Heavenly Father who speaks to you with love, encouragement and confidence.

Sometimes we mix it up. We think God is critical and angry and looking for our faults. But Heavenly Father speaks to his children with love, quiet correction and gentle persuasion.

If you want to feel happier in your life, pay attention to which voice you are listening to. You don’t want to listen to the rumblings of fear and anger, you want to listen to the voice of God.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn. For so many years I felt like to be a good mom I had to be hard on myself. If I didn’t notice on my weaknesses, how would I improve?

We can be perfectly aware of our weaknesses and still focus on our strengths. I learned to stop yelling by noticing the times I was patient and replicating that over and over.

I hereby officially give you permission to be nice to yourself. To listen to God’s voice. To say good things about yourself. To notice your strengths and forgive your weaknesses.

Remember, the best kind of parenting combines high levels of love and support with high expectations. Speak to your children with love, quiet correction and gentle persuasion.

None of us wants to be the ‘bad cello teacher.’ We are builders and lifters. We love God and we love all His children.

The next time you notice that critical, harsh voice in your head, STOP. Tune out the negativity and listen for the kind, gentle counsel from your Father in Heaven. He loves you. He knows your infinite potential and wants you to succeed. He wants your children to succeed!

The next time you want to offer criticism, STOP. Ask yourself if you are building up or tearing down. Speak with a Godly voice. You are His child. He’ll show you how.