June 27, 2006

When Is It Constructive?

We spent much of this week recuperating from the previous week. And even though we were very busy with driving everyone around the entire earth several times (well, okay, maybe it just felt that way) and with taking a 'class' that involved spending hours and hours every day for two weeks playing random verbal versions of what amounts to 'Mad Libs' that the people who paid huge amounts of money for the class don't quite see the point of (it's possible that people who dangle their modifiers simply aren't bright enough to Get It), and even though we spent more money and MUCH more time than we wished on the resulting Performance (most of which did not involve The Kid) - we have to say that the it was the emotional turmoil of Sunday that really took it out of us.

Sunday being the day that the Vampire's loving-but-not-always-tactful grandfather (spurred on by having been one of the people who funded said expensive 'class') chose to give the Young Thespian the gift of a bit of (Constructive?) Criticism.

We won't go into details here, as both interested parties consequently had a very stressful day, and by evening were both calmed and regretful enough of the entire incident that they took great effort and care in making up... not easy when both parties felt entirely innocent in the matter and both felt that they were trying to uphold certain important principles. Whether either's explanations made any sense to the other made little difference; what was important is that both came away understanding that each loved the other, and that they both were Trying (in all senses of the word).

But I wonder: on issues that are truly important to us, is it even possible to honestly ask for the opinion of, or offer truly constructive criticism to, people who really matter? If, for instance, you were to offer up to your best friend your true critical opinion of their child's flaws (or their own parenting mistakes), do you think they would honestly thank you, no matter how objectively accurate your observations might be, however kindly your intentions and wording might be?

What do you think?


Anonymous mamatulip said...

That's a tough -- but good -- question. I'm thinking right now about how I'd feel if my best friend, who is like a sister to me, constructively criticized my children or my parenting. And, I have to be honest, I'd be hurt if what she said was negative. I'd be glad that she was honest with me but I'd be hurt. I think there is a time and place to say things and that sometimes, other things need to remain unsaid. If a child was at risk for being hurt, then yes, I'd say something without worrying about hurting anyone's feelings. But critizing someone's parenting, or their children...that's a risky thing to do.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I can't think of any time (except maybe a safety issue, such as, "Gee, it might not be a good idea to leave your 2-year-old home alone for eight hours") that it's OK to criticize, no matter how gently or well-meant, someone else's parenting, if the other parent hasn't asked. No matter how well-intended, it's going to come off badly.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous mrspao said...

Gosh. Even if I thought something like "Oh so and so gives their child too much ice cream", I'd never say it because we all have our own ways of doing things. If someone said "Do you think I'm giving them too much ice cream?" then I'd say yes. Their kids not mine.

I was in a restaurant having a meal with pao once and I was a little surprised that the woman at the table next to me leaned over whilst we were in the middle of dinner to tell me that she could see that I had left my dry cleaning ticket in my coat which was hanging over the back of my chair. My first thought was that perhaps I should take it out to deal with thtat woman's obvious problem but then I thought that it's my coat and I didn't mind or want to move that ticket just because she said something.

Does that make me stubborn? I

1:15 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hmm, I think it's hard to hear critical things and take them well, at least initially - even if (or especially if?) they're accurate.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sometimes it is not what you say, it is how you say it.
this requires a good bit of thinking and crafting sometimes on the emotional level/internal empathy exercises and whatnot.
sometimes you have to use "I" statements or "I know someone who..." type representations by way of advice, rather than be direct and personal ("you could use improvement in x y z...").
having a mom who is so good at saying things the "right way" makes it that much harder to run up against the blunter sort of person in the big cold world beyond the home.

11:01 PM  

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