Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to Deal With Constructive Criticism About Your Child

I’ve read the Q&A sections in parenting magazines and always see the question asking for advice on how to approach a friend whose child may have a less than desirable characteristics. You’ve seen them or may have asked them yourself: “my friend’s child does (this one behavior) and it hurts my child’s feelings. I don’t want to lose them as friends but how do I bring it up?”

The answers range from “they’re just kids, don’t worry about it” to “if you are afraid to bring it up maybe you shouldn’t be friends” to a step by step on how to bring it up, where to bring it up, what mood the room should be, if you should be in public or private or in a police station in case things escalate.

While at the park the other day with a friend and her daughter I found myself on the receiving side of the question. I couldn’t believe it! I was the mom whose child warranted thousands of mothers to write Ask Alice questions!
Leilani and I !

I listened, I understood, let her know how I felt about her concern, and then she asked me about her child’s behavior.  It was a painless experience, until a day later.
Still unsure how to feel I called my sister and dumped all the feelings I had about the exchange on her. A little short of laughing at me she said, “People are different, parent different, and everything will be alright.”

The truth is listening to someone give you feedback about your child can be very difficult. Even if they are completely right and you know it.

From my personal experience I have found these tips to be helpful when handling these tips of experiences:
  • Breathe and humble your defensiveness: We are all defensive when it comes to our children. All of us are but automatically becoming defensive can change the entire mood of the conversation and make your friend feel like her child’s feelings aren’t important.
  • Listen and evaluate: Listen to what the other parent is saying and honestly ask yourself if what they are saying is true. If your friend has taken the time out to bring up this uncomfortable conversation you should respect them by listening the best way you can. In my case the problems were my daughter’s lack of sharing and blunt way of speaking, both are things I know she has to work on.
  • Let them know how you honestly feel: I expressed to her that I understood what she was saying, have noticed these things myself, and that we have been working on them. I also explained that although my daughter is older than hers, that they are both children learning how to express and communicate and we need to be patient with both of them.
  • Offer feedback: Don’t let this opportunity pass because bringing up the conversation again can be hard. Let them know if there is anything about their child that has been troubling you and your child.
  • It’s not just you, it’s everyone: Every child is the child that makes parents everywhere ask these questions because every child is different. Try not to take it personal.

And perhaps the most difficult thing to remember but easiest to say: Everyone parents different and so is every child. Teach your child how to deal with different individuals by showing them.