Too Critical?

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I just heard a staggering statistic.

1 out of every 2 young people will experience some sort of behavioral/ psychological or mood disorder during their lives.

Even if you don’t immediately believe statistics or have a healthy dose of salt whenever you come across them (which, I confess, I do as well) do you find that our young people are, on average, more anxious these days?

What about all the kids with some sort of diagnosis, IEP, 504 plan or other modification or medication to get through their school day?

Granted, this overly connected reality we live in can make us all feel more anxious…


Is there anything we parents can do to help our kids?

In listening to author Katherine Lewis (The Good News about Bad Behavior), she boiled it down to one major contributing factor…


Parental Criticism

Here’s the easy math:


Higher degree of parental criticism = higher chance for anxiety, etc.

Seems like common sense, right?

And if I took a poll, I’m betting dollars to doughnuts I’d get a large majority of you agreeing that too much parental criticism isn’t good.

But how many of us find ourselves still being critical?

By the way – I’m NOT saying we should be a bunch of “Sugar-Coated Sally’s” when it comes to our kids and heap on the shallow praise and trophies for merely participating.

Nope. That’s not what I’m saying.


How many of us have…

• Expressed verbal exasperation when our 11-year-old can’t tie his shoes?

• Gotten upset when the 8-year-old can’t or won’t get his coat on to get out the door on time even after 10 reminders to do so?

• Been outwardly critical of our kid’s performance or behavior in some way, shape or form?

I admit I’ve done ALL these things.

When I think about some of my past criticisms of my boys….



I feel very ashamed.

But feeling shame for past behavior doesn’t change my future performance.

But… it CAN motivate me to do better.

I wanted to get at the heart of my parental criticism.

What contributes to it?

In two words?



We moms get in our Future Fear Time Machine (which, BTW, is NOT a cool DeLorean with Marty McFly).

And we travel in our Future Fear Time Machine to what I affectionately call the “living in a van down by the river” life outcome for our kids.  (Your scary future scenario may be different than mine but I think you get the idea).

We take this Future Fear trip in our minds.

It’s obviously NOT real.

But our thoughts about it make us…

• Freak out

• Worry

• Over-parent

• And deliver that parental criticism TODAY about TODAY’S behavior from that place of Future Fear.


Future Fear is activated when:


• I see my 11-year-old can’t tie his shoes…

• I see my 8-year-old cannot follow through on a simple task without being reminded 10 times…

• Our kids don’t (or can’t) conform to some expectation we have set for them.


What contributes to those Future Fear feelings?




• If our self-confidence is high = we experience less future fear.

• If our confidence is low = we experience more future fear feelings.


• If we believe that we are ok… that we are parenting from a place of strength and not fear, we will be able to stay in the present moment and not get whisked away into the fears of the future.

• Know that this life is a marathon, not a sprint and that being calm NOW is the best way to live.


Period. End of story.


Our busy AF schedules.

• Us running around, proudly wearing our busy badges promotes low energy feelings akin to running on fumes.

• On fumes – we are reactionary and feel powerless and hopeless… not empowered and capable.

• It’s the perfect environment for Future Fears to fester.


How separated we feel from our TRUE selves in favor of our…

• Mommy-selves

• Wife/Partner-selves

• Sister/Friend/Daughter-selves

• Professional-selves


 Here’s my plan to address and change my levels of parent criticism. Feel free to hack it if you feel it can be useful to you:


Observe my interactions with my kids

• When am I being the most critical?

• What’s going on around me when I am?

• What are my inner thoughts when I am?


 Write down 7-10 strengths about each of my kids

• Do this during a time of high energy NOT when running on fumes!

• Recognizing kid’s gifts, talents and positive personality traits and take the time to write them down – can help recall those and the warm, positive feelings that come with them during low-energy, high criticizing times helping to avoid being overly critical.


Remember the 5 to 1 rule.

• It takes 5 positive comments to offset 1 critical comment.

• These have to be sincere and specific comments – no blowing smoke! Kids see right through that stuff. So, catch them doing something GOOD

• *Extra credit:

o Instead of a gratitude journal for yourself – create a gratitude journal highlighting each kid.

o Write one positive and specific thing about each kid in their journal each night (or whatever schedule works) and leave it by their bed after putting an entry in it.

o They can look back over it during lonely, tough times helping them see themselves as you see them.


Weed whack the schedule.

• Remember: low energy = higher chance for parental criticism.

• I argue it is more beneficial for kids and parents alike to not be scheduled up to our eyeballs in sports and extracurricular resume-building activities.

• Trade that schedule in for one that includes downtime / rejuvenation time for ALL family members.

• Avoid the running on fumes feelings!


Connect with my TRUE Self

• With more free time on the schedule, plan more time to reconnect with my TRUE SELF.

o Who am I?

o What are my passions?

o What do I want to engage in that will connect me to my TRUE self?


Whew! I don’t know about you, but I feel empowered with this plan!

And remember, knowing is half the battle.


Just taking a moment to consider the impact of our criticism on our kids is MAJOR.


If you would like some help to implement this plan or make any other changes to your approach to your life – CONTACT ME – I’m here to help.



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