Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Does critical parenting work?

Sometimes parents are very critical of their offspring. They give constant orders to their children as though they are new recruits under the care of a bullying Sergeant Major. It's all stick and no carrot. In the army it's a technique designed to knock the young recruits into shape, they take them apart piece by piece until they eventually become part of a well oiled machine. But does this work with children?

I watched the Tiger mum's program on TV this week. I know I'm a bit behind but I never watch anything when it actually goes out anymore, I Sky+ it and watch at my leisure. Obviously you only see half the story on these shows but the thing which I was left with was the statement from one of the parents that you don't praise good, good is just what is accepted, you need to strive for excellence. Only something truly exceptional gets praised and then it's valued more. Anything less than perfect is harshly criticised. The results of these children often speak for the method. The children are highly driven and often excel, so there is something for that method, if that's what you want.

I've been thinking about this a lot because I've been feeling pretty demoralised recently. I know I'm an adult but I still want to make my parents proud and recently I feel under constant criticism. Now I know it's meant with the best intentions, my parents wish they could help out more and they can see we're struggling a bit. If I said this to them they would be horrified, they don't realise how it makes me feel. However I'm feeling like a failure and I know it's mainly through the things they have said. Here is a small snippet:

Those trainers are so old even a tramp would be disgusted to wear them.
You're not exactly a yummy mummy are you?
Have you seen all this stuff under your sofa?
You always leave everything on display for people to steal.
Oh dear, that carpet has seen better days.
That coat has seen better days.
It's really time you got a hair cut.
I can't believe you haven't planted that tree I gave you.
I can't believe you haven't sorted out the children's bank accounts.
You really should send a thank you card to your aunt.

I could go on. This was just a short snippet from one day. Some things are said as a joke. If I question anything then I'm told, "we're just trying to help"

It's made me wonder if this is how it's always been. I'm feeling a bit low at the moment so it's getting to me more than normal. However, I know I can't take any form or criticism and I have to feel like a success at all times. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get everything right, to be perfect all the time and if I get anything wrong I'm devastated. So are these traits the result of having a critical parent?

What do you think? Do you have critical parents, has it affected you, and are you critical yourself?


  1. OH poor you, I can see why you feel the way you do. By the sounds of it they mean no harm but perhaps a little, light hearted comment that it's hurting your feelings at the moment may help them reserve some of their (I'm sure) innocently directed critism's. But make no mistake, I totally feel your pain. Critism no matter how nicely intended can always have the ability to make you feel rubbish xx

  2. I remember once, in about grade 9 or 10 at school, scoring 99 out of 100 on a maths exam and topping my grade. My father, on hearing the news, laughed and said, "what happened to the other 1 percent?" I remember being very driven as a teenager, and even as a younger child, and I think part of it was my personality rather than pressure from my parents, but comments like my dad's really didn't help At All.

    Now, as a parent, I struggle to keep a lid on my own competitiveness and quest for perfection. I want my kids to try hard - in fact, I want them to try things that are a bit beyond their comfort zone and keep having a go until they get it - but really, I don't want them to grow up feeling that results are the be-all and end-all.

  3. Even if lightnearted, criticism still can hurt which I think many of us underestimate. I can symapthise with many of the comments which I think parents think are "helpful", although you know if you said the same back you'd have a flea in your ear. I often feel I'm being undermined or doing it wrong when I hear things like that, although I am aware that is me overreacting!
    Personally, I am all for laid back parenting. That's not to say I'll take a backseat in pushing my daughter to the best of her ability, but I'd rather she was "average" if it made her happier in the end. And I'm quite fine being a disorganised scruffbag generally, motherhood is far too over-idealised (or maybe that's because my coat looks trampy too).
    There's nothing wrong with struggling sometimes, you'll get there in the end.x


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