Rita's Words of Wisdom 101: Dealing with Criticism

Destructive criticism should be laughed at and dismissed. If you deign to acknowledge it with arguments, you have already lost the battle.

In the past, I have found that the best words to answer someone who tears you down is to say, "We could argue about this for the rest of the day. But I won't." Then walk away and never think about the conversation again.

I had such a situation over the Christmas holiday when my in-laws criticized us for home schooling our children. "They need to be socialized," they said.

Now let me explain that I'm really opinionated when it comes to the topic of education. Maybe a bit too much so. But I don't believe that our school systems are equipped to build free-thinking, innovative, imaginative creators to build something lasting for the world, to be engineers or inventors or artists.

I believe in dreams. I dream of a time where my writing bring in enough money that I no longer have to earn a paycheck. I dream of a world where people pursue their creative talents, innovating, building, restoring, writing...

And with that in mind, I chose to home school my children, which has been one of the joys of my life. The end result is that my kids think and act differently than any other I know. Personally, I think they are more confident. They talk to everybody no matter their age, color, or gender; they are mini-adults and expect to be treated as such. Everywhere I go, I have gotten comments on how mature and well-behaved they are.

So when my in-laws said that my kids are ill-mannered (translation: brats), I was pissed. Papaw said that my kids were attention hogs, even though out of the 9 grandkids in the house, mine were the quietest, fading into the background. He pointed out the time when Makani (age 7) talked the neighbor's ear off while Kaylee (age 3) tried to climb into the guy's lap.

In parenting, my goal is to teach them what they need to be responsible adults, and the ability to talk to someone who is not your peer is part of being an adult. I never stop them from talking to others. If someone doesn't like them, doesn't want to talk to them, then let that person tell them so.

And Memaw said they need to learn to share. In my opinion, forced sharing isn't really sharing. Besides, I think it is more important to teach respect for another's property. As an adult, I am not required to share my car, my clothes, my computer or whatever with anybody. I can choose who I trust my belongings to, so why should a child be expected to do any different?

I don't force sharing, but I watch them share all the time. Makani just saved up her allowance for two months to buy a Christmas present for her friend, and Rowena bought a My Little Pony house and gave many of the pieces away to her sisters so that they could play with her. But even more, I hear them saying, "No, I can't play with that; that's my sisters."

Driving home from the Christmas holiday, my mind stewed on arguments and defenses, retaliations and bitterness. They should be supporting us rather than undermining and tearing us down. But then if we all did what we should be doing, the world would be a better place.

The hard part about is that I know I'm not a perfect parent. Sometimes I'm too hard and sometimes I'm too soft. Sometimes my kids throw fits. Sometimes I fail to handle those tantrums the way I should. Of course, even if I did exactly as I believed I should, they still wouldn't approve.

Last Friday, I took the kids out for pizza, and when the meal was over, Kaylee started chatting with someone she thought was interesting. For the first time, I wanted to stop her. "Don't interrupt their meal," I wanted to say to her. The criticism had wormed its way into my blood, infecting me with its poison, and I had allowed it to happen.

The moral of the story: Laugh. Walk away. Don't ever think of it again.

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