How to Deal with Others' Judgment of Your Child
Since nobody can be perfect, at some point your children will misbehave in public, at school, or in front of someone you'd like to impress, or whose criticism you fear. In the midst of a behavior problem, a tongue-clucking stranger who says, “Kids these days! You never used to hear back talk like that!” can frustrate and annoy a parent who's doing her best, and perhaps even bring her to tears. Here's how to deal with what other people think.
Turn the Lens Around
Oftentimes, a person's criticism says more about himself than it does about the critiqued: when a stranger complains about “noisy brats,” there's more to the comment than the insult you're likely to hear first. There's also information in that comment about his own tendency to judge people and call names. If you think about it, the person could also be cluing you in to feelings, which could be any of the following: “I can't hear over the kids' yelling,” “I feel like my personal space is invaded,” or “I miss being around kids I know and love.” Noticing underlying messages will show you how futile it would be to get into a shouting match over whether or not your kids are noisy brats. It's a no-win situation.
If you want — and this will depend on the situation and the person — you can use effective communication skills to turn this kind of interaction into a positive one. You can say something like, “It sounds like the noise is disturbing you,” and see if further comments point in the direction of a solution.
Remember that you don't have to take such a message to heart; in fact, such insults are a sure-fire way to hurt a parent's feelings. Don't internalize insults, and remember the saying “The people who matter don't mind, and the people who mind don't matter.” While others' feelings are valid, you don't have to engage in a dialogue with someone who is insulting you, especially when the person is a total stranger.
Now and then, a caring loved one or tactful stranger might venture forth with real, constructive criticism. Sometimes, the person will take you aside and say, “I wanted to talk to you about something….” Other times, the person may be so fearful of upsetting you that she'll just drop a subtle comment into the conversation, such as “Do you think Zach might need to get his hearing checked?” When another person is doing her best to be respectful and courteous, try to listen openly and thank the person, even though it's hard. Later, you can decide whether the comment is valid, and you might even wish to bounce the comment off others you trust. Still, keep a “cold” eye on the problem, try not to become angry or saddened until you get to the bottom of the situation.