How can we help it as parents? We know that a big part of our job is to train and teach our children and this just seems to include a bit of critiquing. We know that we can be too critical and that often keeping our mouths closed is better than saying something critical, but many of us struggle with this. I’ve come up with a phrase I use for myself and I remind myself to “turn off my critical brain” and open myself up to other ways of responding.
The world is a critical place, it may not seem like it but our children are getting criticism and critiques from everywhere and anywhere. Even if teachers and coaches try to be encouraging, children are still getting either covert or overt critique of their efforts, work, opinions, etc. When it comes to their peer group—they are subjected to nonstop criticism. So, maybe they don’t need as much from us as we think!
Even if you can’t come forth with gushing compliments for your child, you can refrain from criticizing. Instead of commenting on what they are wearing or grading their papers for flaws and mistakes, turning off the critical brain can help you to connect and encourage. I know this can be tough! I cannot count the times that one of my children have asked me to look over an essay or a literature paper and I have wanted to make wholesale changes or “fix it” just a bit here and there—what English major, writer-mom wouldn’t? But that wasn’t really the best way for me to handle it. Making some minor suggestions and looking it over for spelling errors and punctuation was what was needed, not a big red critical pen.
When in doubt—turn off the critical brain, we can provide encouragement, support and help bolster self-esteem without picking apart the efforts and work (or personality traits) that our children share.