When I’m Criticised as Parent

I said to someone recently, “Parenting is one of those things I desperately want to be good at, but just can’t, no matter how hard I try.”

Do you ever feel that way?

But what does being a good parent mean?  

Feeding

Nurturing

Providing

Loving

Teaching

Encouraging

Refining

Edifying

Inspiring

What other ing words can I think of?

If there was a nice flow chart manual for parents, that would be great.  This problem: look it up: this: yes: that: no: answer. 

If there was a universal benchmark for kids, that would be great.  But kids aren’t all the same and they develop in different ways.

Family situations are different. Roads are different. A lot of things are different.

Why don’t I think I’m good at parenting? Parenting is something I can’t achieve highly at because I experience so many failings, and just when I think I’ve got something right, something changes or there is another issue to address, and I’m back to square one! See my quandary? 

Recently, I experienced a passive attack against my parenting skills.  Not the first, and won’t be the last. My first reaction was sadness. I felt sad and heavy: burdened…misunderstood and misjudged even. Sigh. Then I felt defensive…and if I am to be brutally honest here (and I am) I would acknowledge there was an element of truth to the comment that was made against me.

But, but, that person doesn’t understand what I have been goint through this year, and why I have compromised in that particular area.  It really wasn’t an intentional deficit but more of a consequence of many things. A slow fade, yes.  But they don’t know how hard I’m trying. They don’t know some of the good things I’m doing as a parent and some of the successes I’ve had!  But, but, but…

I could go on. However that doesn’t help.  No. It just makes me angry and stubborn instead of gracious and open.

I remember something my mum said to me when I was a teen…she said, “If you start being defensive, there’s a high chance you are in the wrong (in some way).”  She’s didn’t mean that I was doing something wrong necessarily, but something was wrong.  A defence reaction usually meant there was something to either adjust or overcome.

I’ll rephrase that (for myself): A defence reaction is an opportunity to adjust a potential flaw or overcome an unedifying emotion.  Because of this, I have always red-flagged a defensive reaction in my life.  Always. It makes me stop to examine myself or my motives. Doing this has served me very well.  It has, overtime, made me more confident and free in my thought and action.

I’ve been criticised many times about my parenting, and been able to just dismiss it easily…and that’s because there was no founding to the judgement. It works both ways.  Even if a judgement (intentional or unintentional) is unjust or the criticism well indented, an intense defence reaction from me usually means there is something, something I need to address in my own life or some area to improve. That something doesn’t even have to be a bad trait or a mistake, sometimes it can mean a hurt to overcome, a wrong to forgive or a improvement to make.

However, there is a process. I felt sad about the comment that was made about something I ‘should’ be doing better.  And I then I felt defensive. Then…I panicked.

I’m not a good parent. Where else am I failing?  What else am I not doing as well as I should be?  Where are the holes in my ship? I’ve failed to teach my kids something I should have. But…I have done well in other areas. Haven’t I? But I SHOULD have realised that deficit, but I didn’t. I’m such a bad parent. But my kids love and trust me. That’s something isn’t it? But it’s not enough.   

Can you see the cycle?  Sadness, defence, sadness, defence…and so on.  It’s so easy for me to fall into this trap until eventually, the anxiety passes and I forgot it all…until the next time. But I don’t play that game.

When I felt defensive this time, I stopped myself right there. It’s tough dealing with criticism, and I think parents cop a lot of it.  However, I knew the reason the comment hurt so much in this particular instance, is I could see the truth in it.  The truth wasn’t in the ‘should’ but in my realisation of my failing. And even more than that: the realisation of how the failing came to be.  I felt sad. I felt defensive. Then I stopped feeling defensive and just allowed myself to feel sad.

I felt sad because I realised the emotion wasn’t really because of the comment that was made, and it wasn’t really in my failing, but the realisation of the road that led me to that moment.  It was a road I had to take, it wasn’t the best one, or most ideal, but a necessary one.  When you’re hiking up a mountain, you might use the same cup or coffee and soup. You cut corners because efforts need to more intensely be focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you are working hard at keeping your head above water while it seems all others around you are perfecting their stroke.  But there is a point where the road evens out and the waves turn calm…and it’s good to fine tune. 

I worked out why I felt sad, then I put it in perceptive. You see, this ‘something’ I’m talking about is a blip.  Really. It terms of what is important to me in raising the small people in my care into genuine, kind, bright, confident, inspiring people, it’s the orange in the pie.

chart

Then, I took the criticism on as a prompt. But I only took the truth in it. I didn’t take it all, just the truth the defence in me was screaming at. I took hold of it with open arms, even though it hurt. It worked like this in my mind: acknowledge of what had led to this moment wasn’t because of outright mistake but the compensations made on a particular road (no shaming or blaming or hanging on to guilt). I owned the prompt. I aligned it with what I believe and what is true. I turned it into a challenge for the better.

I’m not a perfect parent. I’m not even a good parent. I say that because what I see as ‘good’ by society’s standards is a fictional image floating around in my head (maybe I put it there myself) and its one of a magazine home, happy families sitting at the dinner table and well pressed, high achieving kids.  What is ‘good’ often means what looks good from the outside, and yet I don’t want to raise good children. I want to raise passionate people of conviction. I don’t want to be a good parent.  I want to be a real parent who shares the highs and lows — the beauty of connection and relationship — with the people most dear to me with an open heart and an undercurrent of deep Faith. I always need to remind myself of that: when I feel my failing keenly; when I feel overwhelming pressure to be a perfect parent.

Another post I’ve written along the similar lines: How I Became a More Confident Parent.

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

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Comments

  1. Siv says

    I feel so cranky at the person who thought it was their place to tug you down. I see your graciousness in taking the positive out of this and I think that’s hugely commendable, but in the first place, without knowing what was said or why, I feel quite often people should seek to remove the log from their own eye before the stick from others. Back yourself darling. You. Are. Wonderful. Xx

  2. says

    Beautifully written and thoughtfully expressed. I agree with you, as much as it hurts to be criticized {passively or otherwise} there is the odd occasion when it can actually help you re-examine a situation with a fresh perspective. The good news is the longer you’re in the parenting trenches and the more experiences you enjoy/endure, the more discerning you become in judging that which is helpful and that which is unjustified.

  3. Tierney says

    I think that we have all been sold a lie that it is possible to have it all – a perfect family, being perfectly contented at work, and making a mark on the world. The reality is that we live (and parent and work) by grace. There are only so many hours and so much energy on any one day. We are three-dimensional people, with the ugly and hard parts in life, not just the ideal. Perhaps if life was ideal and fairytale like then we could expect the same of ourselves. But it is not. And we are not. It is hard to remember that we see only part of other people when we compare ourselves to them – we only see the bits they choose to show us. We don’t see the less than ideal or downright ugly parts. And we then compare ourselves with that very narrow, one-dimensional image. It is impossible to live up to our own expectations because they exist only in one dimension. We need to offer ourselves the same grace that we offer our kids. And realise that love and grace cover over a multitude of mistakes and failures. It is impossible to be a “good” parent. But as long as we really love our kids then that evens out almost everything. Not the sappy fairytale love. Real love – gritty.

  4. says

    You are an awesome mother. I love how you worked through this, it’s a great example and I’m going to remember this next time I feel criticised. xx

  5. says

    You teach me SO much about parenting and being a better person Kelly. I don’t think perfection can be achieved in parenting as we are all human. That you are willing to adjust your way of doing things and are open to learning is a real gift to yourself and your children. x

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