The Criticism that Really Hurts

As moms, we are used to constant criticism, both implied and spoken. Every magazine and online advertisement criticizes our appearance: hair, skin, makeup, body, clothing, and body odor. Every article offers potential criticism of our mothering choices: our kids’ diet, our discipline methods, our entertainment choices, the clothes our kids wear, the medicines we use, the pets we own, the degree of freedom we give our kids, the kinds of chores we require, etc. It seems like these days everyone is selling something, and to sell something, you have to point out a need. Even something as innocuous as jewelry can be sold as a guilt trip: “Buy something nice for yourself! If you don’t value yourself no one else will!”

As a life coach, I struggle with this approach, frankly. Because my primary work as a coach is giving women permission to just be. My clients find peace of mind, joy, and fulfillment, but they do so primarily because I equip them to ignore marketing messages and explicit criticisms!
But this article isn’t about me or about selling stuff. It’s about criticism. 

Earlier today I tweeted this: “It’s not the lack of appreciation that makes motherhood hard: it’s the ingratitude combined with the constant complaints.”

Our kids complain. And here in the first world, our kids complain about petty, stupid things. Why else is there a whole website dedicated to “Reasons My Son Is Crying”?
I don’t do things for my daughter because I expect appreciation or gratitude. I breast fed her, but frankly, I don’t expect her to appreciate me for doing that. Why should she? I’m her mother. I breast fed her because I loved her, because I believed it was best for her, and because it happened to be really easy for me, at least, once I got past the infections, cracked nipples, yada yada yada. I don’t care if she ever even THINKS about whether I breast fed her or formula fed her. I don’t give 2 hoots about Mother’s Day. She doesn’t owe me any gratitude. Not one bit.
However, the complaining and criticizing is a whole different ballgame. Because when I hear a criticism like “This butter is too cold!” I instantly think, “Why did I bother making you bread and butter for breakfast?”

 

I think there’s something even deeper going on here though.

It’s not just the complaining. It’s the fact that the ONE person whose opinion matters most is criticizing me. I don’t care if other people think my daughter should have something besides butter and bread (non organic, non homemade) for breakfast. You want her to eat organic eggs and cruelty free bacon? Come on over and make it for her then. But when SHE complains, when SHE criticizes, I think that every one else is right. Maybe if I were making those special eggs and bacon, she wouldn’t complain.

 

Our children’s complaints and criticism seem to validate the external criticism we are battling against constantly.

Our kid says: “I don’t like my toast cut in triangles”
We hear: “Mommy, why aren’t you crafting me a healthy balanced breakfast incorporating all the recent nutritional studies?”
Our kid says (usually while surrounded by toys): “I’m bored.”
We hear: “Mommy, why am I not enrolled in the best preschool/why aren’t you at home with me all day teaching me how to grow an organic garden/why aren’t you taking me to at least 1 enrichment activity daily?”
Our kid says: “I missed you today.”
We hear: “Mommy, why can’t you stay at home with me all day instead of going to work?”
Our kid says: “I wish I could do ___ like So and So.”
We hear: “Mommy, why aren’t you working a job so you can pay for activities for me?”
Our kid says: “I HATE YOU!”
We hear: “Mommy, I am experiencing high levels of stress due to elevated cortisol from being in preschool all day and am therefore asking for negative attention in order to get love and reinforcement that I am worthwhile human being. After all, all the experts agree that kids who need love the most ask for it in the worst ways.”
You have my permission to ignore this meme at least 25% of the time

Moms. We don’t do this job for gratitude or appreciation. 

Don’t let criticism from your kids destroy you. 

Sometimes, when your kid criticizes you, it’s an expression of something important – a food allergy, or a bully at school, or just a boundary that needs setting. But sometimes your kid criticizes you because kids are tactless, bluntly honest, and manipulative.
I don’t have an answer. I don’t know how to handle this. Just like all of you, I’m doing the best I can, moment by moment, each day. What I realized today is that I can apply my best judgment to my daughter’s complaints. Some of her criticisms of me are areas where she simply needs to learn social norms and etiquette. Some of her criticisms of me are her way of telling me that there’s a deeper need that is unmet. And some of her criticisms of me are just plain old funny, and it’s OK for me to laugh.
Keep fighting! Seek out friends and communities that offer you support, not criticism. And remember that kids criticize and complain, but at the end of the day, we are the adults, and its our job to teach them how to be adults too. 

Listen to your kids’ criticisms. Evaluate them. Act accordingly. Never give up.

 

Similar Posts