Ask the Savvy Parent – Dealing with advise or criticism

criticism_media_cycleAssalamu alaikum. I am a mom of three lovely girls under the age of ten. I am disturbed for a reason that whenever we socialize with friends or family, they always criticize my daughters like: her complexion is getting dark, she is gaining weight and so on and on. I do believe in grooming the personality, but feel it is way too early to start worrying about how my girls look, as long as they are healthy and within the average height/weight range of girls their age. But now, I am beginning to doubt myself, especially when everyone around me makes me feel inadequate. What are your comments?

Dear Parent,

I am sure that there are many parents, who can relate to what you are experiencing. It can be difficult to deal with such criticism, even more so, if it comes from close friends or family. At times, their comments can really have an effect on a parent. It can start the cycle of self-doubt and provoke one to start questioning whether he/she is doing the wrong thing. This is something you are already beginning to feel. The big question is: do you say something back? If yes, then what do you say?  How does one even say something, without offending the family members or friends?

Firstly, please, do not doubt yourself; you have the right attitude. The focus should be on nurturing a child’s personality and developing self worth. It is very important for children to love themselves just the way Allah (swt) has made them, without developing any self image insecurities. In this time and age, with all the glamorous media around telling one what to wear and how to look, is a serious problem, especially for girls.

I always give people the benefit of doubt and hope that they ask questions genuinely, wanting to know why one does or doesn’t do something; however, unfortunately, many a times this isn’t the case. So what do you do? Here are some suggestions that might work:

1. Set Limits

If you’ve already walked down this path with this particular criticizer, set a firm limit. Just because someone wants to dish it out, doesn’t mean that you or your kids have to take it. In some cultures, it is common for such things to be discussed or said in social gatherings. Sometimes people mean well, but remember there is a time and a place for such a discussion. Do not allow someone to criticize you in front of your children or in front of others.

2. Agree to Disagree

There are those who question us but are not open to hearing the reasons behind our decisions. We’ve all come across such relatives or acquaintances, who bring up a topic, just because they want an opportunity to tell us the many ways they think we are wrong or aren’t doing it right.

Often that comes from the concern stemming from their genuine love for the child, and I’m sure you can appreciate that. However, as a parent, you have a right to make your own decisions.

There may even be some issues, where you may never see eye to eye with certain individuals. In such cases, in order to preserve the relationship, it is best to find a way to agree to disagree.

Depending on the person, especially a family member, it can be difficult to say something without offending the person. Choose your words carefully. Perhaps work with statements such as “I can see that you feel strongly about this. I do too. You are very important to me but I humbly disagree with what you are saying. No heart feelings, we should better move on.”

3. Redirect/Subject Changer

One strategy for setting limits on critical conversations is to change the subject that is known in the west as “bean dipping”. For example, “Yes, Mrs. Busybody we are still ____. Can you please pass the bean dip?” Conversation over. That is it… hopefully.

4. Turn a Deaf Ear to Criticism

Finally, with some people, none of these things will work, and even if we make some excuse to redirect or leave the conversation, they will continue to criticize us. Somehow these people always find an ear willing to listen to them. It’s okay. Let them speak. You must find a way to remove yourself from the conversation. Don’t waste your time and energy on people, who don’t deserve it.

I know it hurts but their behaviour tells more about them than it does about you – and just think, if they are gossiping to someone else, at least you don’t have to listen to it.

In the wise words of Judy Ford, “What you think of me is none of my business.”

Insha’Allah I hope this helps and may Allah (swt) guide you to what is best. Ameen. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent