Monday, July 21, 2008

I Yam What I Loathe

I know some parents who, when their children begin having children, have no qualms about criticizing and outright badmouthing their kids’ parenting skills. This has always been a hot button issue for me. I find it infuriating that anyone could put down their own child when that child is doing the best they are capable of. When they’re learning their way, getting through the challenges of new parenthood with whatever skills they have. I find myself wanting to yell at these people, “You were a new parent once, too! And you weren’t perfect, so lay off!”

But maybe the critical parent has something else going on in their head. Maybe they see some potential in their child to be better—and rather than gently encouraging, they communicate it with aggression or tough love. Maybe they are frustrated because they know their child’s life could be easier or better, even, if that child adjusted their ways.

Or maybe they’re worried about how their child’s choices reflect upon them. How, by being associated, they could somehow be culpable or judged themselves for their kid’s missteps.

I don’t know what the reason is.

But amidst my vehement distaste for that behavior lies a blushing, squirming, shameful hypocrite. I am, and always have been, an outspoken critic.

If I think someone is doing something wrong, I tell them. I see people with great potential, incredible charisma, talent, intelligence, and instead of exploiting their arsenal of ability, they squander it. They make choices that don’t move them forward. They settle. They sell short.

Maybe to them, that’s not the case. But my discerning eye deems it so and feels frustration that they don’t see what I see—possibility, promise, a chance for something better.

I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to have thoughts of shaking and yelling at, or disassociating myself with, certain people. But I’m not sure how to truly accept what I want to condemn. I find it so very, very hard to just say, “Well, that’s the way they are. Gotta just let it be.” I’m sure there’s a fantastic codependency fable wrapped in here somewhere…

So if one cannot be supportive of another’s actions, what’s the best course to take? Detachment? Disappointment masked by a façade of pleasantries? Or do the critics have some duty to at least try and make a difference? Even if the outcome is—as it has been when I’ve witnessed disparaging parents—sheer disgust?

10 comments:

Jane Moneypenny said...

I, too, thought of this on my 10 hour drive today. I speak up often, too, but become quiet when I'm not sure my place, especially if I don't think I have one. But to the friends that are close enough to me, I have to say something if I completely disagree. If they don't agree, that's fine; but they know me opinion of the matter. I don't think disgust is needed. Maybe just discretion on which battles are worth fighting.

thecoconutdiaries said...

I think delivery and intention is the key. If your intention is to assist in all sincerity, then the message will be delivered in a way to match the intention. BUT if you're just feeling like you want to be right, then the delivery will come off as bitchy and all-knowing. And no one wants to hear that.

poopypants said...

I hope my lack of parenting skills didn't prompt your post tonight :) If this is the situation that I am thinking it is...then I think it totally appropriate for you to share your thoughts with the offending party. Sometimes people just need someone that is willing to stick up for them when they are in a situation where they can't speak up themselves...and I truly think that is the case here. Had fun last night...we'll have to do it again soon!

Ricardo Bueno said...

I don't think that detachment is necessarily a better course of action. I think that parents generally mean well! Though they don't always know how to show it. (I'm optimistic like that I guess...)

geekhiker said...

You? An "outspoken critic"? No way!

The key, I think, is always in the delivery. People don't usually mind a little advice here and there, but they don't want to be lectured to. Especially if the person doing the lecturing has no experience of their own. A good example is pretty common in IT. Everybody uses a computer, so everybody thinks they know what my job involves. As such, they have no problem telling me how to do my job and how to order my priorities.

I could yell back, of course, but sometimes you do have to accept that people do things differently. Feel free to advise, but if the advice is rejected, don't take it personally. A nudge in the right direction is one thing, a command to turn is something quite different...

Wow, that was awkward said...

I agree on the delivery angle. And try to avoid finishing your advice with "I'm just glad I'm not you."

Mel Heth said...

Jane - I think we are long lost sisters. You're right about choosing battles...but I think sometimes the battles have gone on so long, they're no longer worth the fight anymore.

Coconut - Yeah, it's not so much a matter of wanting to be right. It's a matter of wanting what's right for the other person...not seeing them hurt themselves or others anymore.

Poopy - Your parenting skills are great, dork! And in the situation you're referring to, I definitely plan on speaking up next time!

Ricardo Bueno - I know parents mean well a lot of the time. But I know others who literally just badmouth their kids behind their backs. Not cool.

Geekhiker - As you know, I have a hard time drawing the lines between advising and lecturing. Perhaps I need some advice or a lecture on that matter...

Wow TWA - Man, you always know how to wrap things up. Genius, I tell you, genius.

Dingo said...

I agree with the whole, "it's all how it's said" approach. Some people will get defensive but if they truly believe that your advice or criticism is coming from the heart, then after they blow off some steam, they'll think about what you've said.

Anonymous said...

From the parental side, most are doing the best job they know how.
However, to others, who aren't living the life, it may seem there are flaws. Critics are fine if it is handled properly and delivered in a loving and supportive way. It is easy to make judgment til you are wearing the same hat.

Big Sister said...

Will you give me a secret sign that you are getting ready to blow, so I can run? I don't think I want to be there when you do it. You are scary when you spew your frustration, (I'd listen to all that delivery advice you got) and my gut tells me it won't be accepted well even if you used the kindest delivery method. Remember our favorite persons advice - Keep your side of the sidewalk clean.