Imagine this scenario with me if you will. You are at a family gathering and your children are acting up for some reason or another. You try to get them under control, but they are proving to be more troublesome then usual. Between the screaming and the disrespect, you are about ready to pull your hair out with frustration. But the antics of your children are nothing compared to what is coming up next. Aunt Bertha, the so-called child expert of the family, just happens to be at this family event. To the entire family, she is the bastion of knowledge and often known for getting kids to listen to her. But what she is best known for in your mind, is her constant belittling or insulting statements that she makes towards you and your family. You hope and pray that she doesn’t say anything, but to your horror she turns her gaze towards you. It’s a gaze that you know too well. The gaze of utter contempt and disrespect. You steel yourself for the inevitable dressing down that is coming. Sure enough, Aunt Bertha comes over and says, “You know, your children only act this way because you don’t discipline them enough. You might want to keep them from gathering’s like this if they are going to make everyone else miserable.” The words sting because they aren’t true. You discipline your children and they usually respond well to your measures, but this day is an exception. You curl your lip because you want nothing more then to give this woman the biggest tongue lashing of her life.
Does the scenario sound familiar? I think we can all say that we have at one point or another.
We have family members that are constantly trying to tell us how to parent or how to handle our
families. And their feedback doesn’t work about fifty percent of the time. In fact, most of the time it drives us crazy because they don’t respect our situation or our “no.” This can often cause relational conflict or even drive us from family members. So how do we handle feedback or criticism from family members that is not helpful or disrespectful? Below are some tips and tricks that you can use in your family.
- Look at who the criticism or feedback is coming from. There are some family members who really do care about us and are respectful of our families or beliefs. We don’t need to push them away because we don’t want to hear what they have to say. The family members we need to be careful are those who are disrespectful of us and our families. Their type of criticism is them constantly using belittling comments towards us or attacking our character or ability with “corrections.” This can often lead to anger and resentment between family members. If this is the type of criticism that is coming from a particular family member, then it is time to set some boundaries.
- Set limits where you need to in terms of how much time you spend with unhelpful family members. Please understand, I’m not saying to cut off family members entirely if you don’t have to. I’m saying that setting limits with family members in some areas of your life as a parent and even as an adult are necessary. If your parents or relatives are giving you feedback or advice that is not helpful, then you have every right to set a limit with that parent or relative. If that family member goes to certain events, you have the right to not attend with your family to spare yourself unnecessary stress.
- You can choose what feedback you will receive from family members and what feedback you will use. Just because someone opens their mouth and spouts out something, it does not mean that you have to listen to it or even use it. This applies very strongly to feedback that is absurd, unpractical, and downright abusive. Your family is your family. You can decide as a parent what is best for your children. If family members give you any feedback that could be harmful to your family in any way, then you can very easily dismiss the feedback and even say, “That feedback is not helpful to my family. Please do not suggest something like that again.”
- Remember, as the parent, you have the final say of what happens to your children and what they will be a part of. Your relatives might insist that your children try an activity, but you are the one that can say yes or no. Remember, you know your children better than your family members since you live with them and get to observe them 24/7. Don’t be afraid to reiterate this fact if you need to.
Our family members can be a great support, but there may be times when they don’t offer the best advice or feedback for us or for our children. It is important, however, that we remember that we are the experts over our children as parents. While parenting may be hard work and support is necessary, we can choose what kind of support and feedback we will take.