Don’t be the critical parent
What would we do right if we were not criticized? Little, no doubt. We need critical approach of situations to help us to make some reasonable approach to them. When we look at all options so harshly we may be able to take decisions that help to prevent failure or disaster.
As human beings, however, we tend to take criticism too far; especially when we apply it to our relationships with people-criticism appears to be an effective weapon when we want to put down other people.
But as we are well aware, criticism helps to mould us, though; for example, there you are gloating about that project you have finally pulled through, but then your best friend takes a good look at your creation, turns up her nose and laughs, disgusted. Or worse, she praises you to high heavens, but when you turn your back, she ‘whispers’ loud enough for you to hear; “Look at the rubbish she is making noise about.”
So you take their derision in good faith and resolve to do better next time. Such is the power of criticism.
But we know, too, that some words were never intended to mould one positively. Sometimes, they are delivered so viciously that the one so criticized feels hurt enough and inadequate not to want to make further attempt.
Parents in their attempt to push their young ones to aspire higher are sometimes vicious with their actions that they get just the opposite result. But they may not be aware they are harming their children. A parent should, therefore, know that she should be her child’s most reliable critique although she should be careful how she points out the fault to avoid alienating or breeding distrust between herself and her children. She should be as careful, too, in order not to give raise children who never see the good in other people.
But how do you birth critical children?
Take as an example a child of five years who has lovingly drawn a family portrait of father, mother and big brother, Tim. Proudly, he shows his work and instead he was laughed at and Tim tears the drawing. He is a confused child at this stage; he does not know what could be wrong with his drawing if the fault is not shown him. The problem, however, is that with that incident alone you probably did not stop judging him so harshly so that by the time he was old enough to understand, he had begun to see himself as never good enough to do anything. He is likely to be the one who follows his peers blindly because he is afraid to be laughed at; he feels safe in a majority, which may not be doing the right thing.
He may not understand that his problem is that he was criticized wrongly as a child. Okay! He was not getting it right. But what was wrong with the drawing? His critiques, this time, his family should show him.
Another way you rear critical children is by comparing them with their peers. It is painful enough when outsiders compare two children to the hearing of the one seen less favourably. “Whose children are those?” These were grown men looking at two little girls of six and seven years old respectively. Once the information was supplied by the one who knew the little girls: “Now, let’s see who is prettier” one of them said and they began to choose in earnest. I saw this happen.
“Why can’t he be as brilliant as his senior brother? “This one is ugly. That one is better.”
Parents do the most harm themselves. Some are known to have assessed their children and demanded why they could not make as much money as the son of the next- door neighbour. Your observation should move them to action or wake them from slumber, but how you say it may make the children decide never to struggle for themselves.
Your children learn from you when you mother and father run each other down. When your children hear you condemn your friend in front of another friend, they will be like you. They cannot understand that you hurt another when you bring them down in front of other people for personal reasons.
Says one woman: “When I was a teenager, we were many of us on street. Some of us saw themselves as knowing it all, not me. I was plagued with insecurity because they made fun of me all the time. I withdrew into a shell and made friends only at school. We still had to hang out together sometimes but they were too sophisticated for me.”
So the person being run down is not good but so is the one talking. He may be noticed and has a crowd going with him because he does have the right idea, but he or she is not sure of himself either. With driving other people, he aims to be perfect in his own life, so he is never satisfied. If you talk too much, your children may feel unsafe around you. It may not be easy to change because of your gene or the fact that your parents brought you up with criticisms. But being open when you see a fault will help, especially when a child is going the wrong way. Think of this age-old story: A youth reveled in hurting people; he stole and threw his weight about. Nobody dared to challenge him.
One day he was caught and beaten so mercilessly; it was the day he knew that he was bad; his mother could not talk because she feared him. But in his shame, he thought that his mother should have told him. When he came home, he told his mother that he had a secret for her ears only. When she moved towards him, he bit off her ears. Bad boy, but keep telling him, the way you say it will certainly bring the desired result.