Monday, April 25, 2016

On Criticism...

This weekend I found myself in a situation where a friend (male half of a couple that BJ and I are good friends with) corrected something I did that offended him. He was 100% right, and I was wrong (although wrong with good intentions, which he acknowledged right away).

I have to be honest, it really stung. When I got his first text I was so angry. I went straight into defensive mode. I wanted to justify my behavior. I wanted to attack him for calling me out - even though I knew I had been wrong.

I am not here to talk about that specific situation, because it all got resolved and everyone is cool now. I calmed down and found my zen before I replied. I acknowledged that I was wrong, apologized, and promised to work on that bad habit. I also reached out to other people I've done the same thing with, and asked for their forgiveness. It's 100% better now.

But what I do want to talk about is criticism.

picture borrowed from Good Housekeeping

Have you ever thought of how much criticism our kids have to endure on a daily basis? 

Get up! You're running late already! You should have been up 20 minutes ago! You're wearing THAT? Comb your hair. Do it again, it looks terrible. What do you mean you had a Pop Tart for breakfast - that's not healthy! Hurry up! Where are your shoes? Why can't you ever put them back where you found them? Your room is a mess. Go go go, you're going to be late! What do you mean you forgot your lunch/homework/backpack! You're so irresponsible....  and that's all before they get out the door!

Then they go to school and they don't have that lunch/homework/backpack and the teacher gives it to them, too. And they sit through that subject they are struggling in, and they feel stupid. Maybe they get a poor grade on a homework or a test. They sit there and feel dumb, worry about how their parents are going to react, and worry about their future. Their peers criticize them for what they wear, what they like, what they don't like, where they sit, where they don't sit, what they can do, what they can't...

Then they come home. Get off your iPad! Read a book for once! Go outside! Play with your siblings! Your room is still a mess. What do you mean you flunked that test! Do your homework. No, this is all wrong, do it again. You're not even trying. Get your elbows off the table. Don't talk with food in your mouth. You left without clearing your place at the table. What do you mean you forgot your math book at school? I don't have time for this. You need posterboard? For TOMORROW!? You couldn't tell me that an hour ago when we were out getting your math book? Slow down! Hurry up! Brush your teeth. Do it again. Go to bed. Stop coming downstairs, it's late. What do you mean you can't sleep?

Readers, that one bit of criticism I got threw me off for the entire morning. It literally took me 3 hours and half a milligram of Xanax to get over it. No one yelled, called names, berated, or accused - it was all very adult and respectful and mature, and yet I went through every negative emotion from angry to embarrassed to sad to hurt to angry again and even frightened that I had ruined an important friendship with my boneheaded behavior.

Is it any wonder that by the time our kids hit the teen years, they roll their eyes at adults? Maybe it's simply because they've taken so much criticism from us their entire lives that they learn to think we're stupid as a defense mechanism!  They just shut down.  And wouldn't you?

Next time I get irritated with my kids (which should be in about 11 seconds), I'm going to try really hard to correct without criticizing. Correction is often necessary, but criticism hurts and I don't want to hurt the people I love most.

No comments: