Handling Criticism

   By jkieras  May 12, 2011

4 Ways to Handle Well-Meaning Criticism
It’s hard enough to be a new mom – you’re recovering from the body-changing (and life-changing) experience of birth. Then you’re handed a fragile newborn and sent home from the hospital to make your way in the world. Suddenly you’re making very important decisions: Breastfeeding or bottle? Pacifier, no pacifier? Daycare or nanny? Stay-at-home or back-to-work? The red outfit or the pink one?
Beautiful bubbles of happiness float through your new-mom world. Then someone opens their mouth. Sticks their nose in. Points their finger and bursts your bubble with well-meaning, but pointed criticism, of your parenting. 
Maybe it’s about when you start your baby on solids, what diapers you use, whether you dress the baby too warm or too cold. Whatever the topic, when relatives, friends, or complete strangers dish opinions unasked, it stings!
Here’s some ways to get past the hurt:
Consider the source. Think about who made the critique. A stranger who knows nothing about your life? Let it go. A friend who thought they were doing you a favor by “informing” you? Give her a pass. A relative who is coming from their own, possibly outdated, experiences as a mother? Talk about new advances in baby care with them.
Consider your intentions. Sometimes you can’t address the criticism or the person who dished. Consider why you made your decision. Chances are you had a good reason. Perhaps you breastfeed because you enjoy the bonding, or you bottle-feed because it brings sanity to your schedule or you may not want to breastfeed. Be intentional about your parenting, and criticisms may sting a bit less. Once someone commented that my teaching my baby sign language might delay their speech; knowing I had researched this topic (it’s not true) and I had intentional goals to teach my child simple words so we could communicate better allowed me to shrug this jab off easily.
Consider yourself.  Are you taking the comment personally because you’re overtired? Or the baby’s been sick? Or you’re nervous about going back to work? Stress and physical exhaustion can make us more sensitive. Perhaps you’ve been isolated since the baby arrived – get out and find a mom or medical professional who validates your decisions so you have a supportive resource. Call a friend, sibling or parent (as long as they aren’t the ones who rained on your parade!); vent to them and ask for their support. 
Consider your child. Bottom line – it’s all about the babe. Is your baby happy? Healthy? If the comment made won’t improve your child’s health and well-being, then don’t let it eat at you. Consider the critique “food for thought” (it’s wise to at least be open to new ideas), but if it won’t benefit your child, pass on the idea. Plenty of people think I’m crazy for cloth diapering my child; but he’s happy in his diapers, and loves the fun prints and colors. When people give me strange looks, it used to make me feel bad, but now I can ignore it, because I know why I’m using cloth, and I know my baby is happy and healthy in that decision.
Nothing quite takes the sting out of a sharp critique of your personal decisions as a parent. But putting the criticism into perspective, making intentional decisions, and gathering a support system helps you move forward and stay positive about your parenting style.
How have you handled well-meaning criticism?

Make a Comment

scentednights by scentednights | CASTLETON, VT
May 27, 2011

Great suggestions! No one is going to agree 100% with how you do things. The important thing is that you feel good about what you're doing.

hayness3 by hayness3 | Brownsville, TN
May 13, 2011

No two moms are going to raise a child the same way. Just like no two babies are going to be the same. I admit to later crying over harsh criticism (usually that happened when I was already down feeling) but for the most part, I truly believe the criticizer means well. We do the best we can and as long as our children are healthy, happy, and safe then we can't be doing such a terrible job, can we? :)

Bluebear by Bluebear | Maplewood, NJ
May 13, 2011

As a new parent I think I accepted that I had no real clue what I was doing. I was open to suggestions and help, I just wish some of my family were more thoughtful about how their advice was delivered to me. Sometimes there is a judgment that comes with the advice and that still makes me mad.

HazelCCobb by HazelCCobb | NEW YORK, NY
May 13, 2011

Probably one of the hardest things as a parent is to hear how you're doing or what you're doing wrong...especially since we're hard on ourselves anyone. I live in New York and because I'm constantly in a group/public setting, lots of other mothers' eyes are on me and I've had moms come up to me and tell me "put a hat your baby," "don't put a hat b/c they need to get use to the cold," "cover your baby with a blanket b/c of germs..." At the end of the day, just as this article says, it's up to yourself to feel confident that you're doing what's right for your child.

evielee by evielee | New York, NY
May 13, 2011

I found a lot of strangers gave me encouragement and compassion like the experienced mom of 2 who told me it would get easier while I sat shell-shocked and exhausted with my firstborn in a Starbucks. I think the family criticism is hardest to handle but agree you need to have your priorities in order and stick to them--even if it means having to step out of family functions to nurse without offending anyone. The upside is that my second born who nursed for a year has an immune system of steel which more than makes up for a little criticism!

dnuncio by dnuncio | Elmhurst, NY
May 13, 2011

When criticism comes from my friends, I always remind myself to welcome it with open arms. If ANYONE should be criticizing me constructively it should be the people who care for me right? :)

JaneTom by JaneTom | Kirtland, OH
May 13, 2011

Great advice, and a lot of it is applicable to handling any criticism not just parenting.

didama by didama | MAPLEWOOD, NJ
May 13, 2011

There are some great ideas in here. The most important thing for me to know when I started getting criticized was that I was not alone. Other friends would tell me that they too experienced the same thing. Someone is always going to have a different way of doing things. I also think we tend to be super sensitive about this type of criticism because we care so much about doing the right thing for our children. I just put it in context and remember that.