Saturday, June 18, 2011

Critical Parenting

There comes a time in parenting when you sometimes start to look at your son or daughter with a critical eye.  Are they shaping up the way you expect them to?  Are they a good reflection of the way you brought them up?  Will they be strong enough not to be weakened by corrupting influences around them?
We all do it, because we all want the best for our children.  Regardless of whether the child has special needs or not.
However, many of us are extremely critical of ourselves and set such high standards that others seem to fall by the wayside, inviting our criticism.   Often we seem to get more critical as we get older—life just isn’t ‘what it used to be!’ 
Having a child with special needs can sometimes make us even more critical, not necessarily outwardly, but inwardly as we compare our child’s “failings” with the next person’s child. 
By being critical we can build up a wall of protection against others—striking first before we are criticised.  There’s nothing wrong with being protective—heaven knows, it’s what we parents are best at… but criticism also has a darker side.  Ron Potter-Efron’s book, Stop The Anger Now (New Harbinger) says that ‘being critical of others:
  • Helps me feel superior/dominant
  • Convinces me that I’m right and you’re wrong
  • Helps me avoid noticing my imperfections and faults
  • Keeps me in control by making others appear weak, dumb or bad
  • Is similar to what I do to myself.  I’m very critical of myself.
  • Keeps me from getting too close.
  • Is my way of trying to help, protect or guide others, even if they don’t like it
  • Feels good
He says, “too much criticism of others can make you mean-spirited and cynical”.  Cynicism is the enemy of optimism and happiness.  It makes us aware of how easy it is to give in, give up.  Parenting a child, or even an adult, with PWS can often have this reaction.  Tiredness sets in, cynicism takes over, and the thought of another year with all the same battles just seems to be not worth getting up for. 
One of the best resolutions (New Year's or just today's) we could ever make is to be kinder to ourselves.  If we let go some of the expectations that come with ‘critical’ parenting, learn to appreciate and enjoy the smallest of achievements, we can re-charge our batteries and set different goals.  Goals that aren’t bothered by what the next person is doing or achieving; goals that aren’t rooted in materialism, or comparisons. Achievements that are as uncomplicated  as helping your daughter get her balance to slide down a gentle waterfall—just like everyone else.
Potter-Efron suggests, “make a goal for the next 24 hours to notice as many good things about the world and about other people as you can—do this every day for a month”.
It’s good advice for the weary and the cynical!

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