A Parent Obsessed with Constructive Criticism

Seven months.

I am fixated on being the best version of myself I can be; especially when it comes to being a parent.  So I seriously wonder if anyone else in the world is as excited as I am to receive constructive criticism?

baby hat Good HousekeepingIt’s nearly hilarious how in the unsupervised playground of the blog comments world, some adults instantly become childish.  Some are only there to pick fights with either the author or other commenters, trigger-happy to name-call a random stranger; including but not limited “idiot,” “moron,” and “naive.”  If these blog comment snipers can find an angle to make another person look less intelligent than they are, it evidently gives the blog comment sniper a feeling of superiority.

There is a school of thought among some blog authors that by allowing these dog fights to occur in the comment section of their post, it will at least help drive traffic to their site- therefore, nearly anything in the comments section is allowed.  Well, I am not one of those blog authors and this is not one of those kinds of blogs.  If a comment is malicious, condescendingly sarcastic, or deconstructive, I simply won’t approve it.  Just because we are in the seemingly imaginary avatar world of the blogosphere, it doesn’t mean that the tradition of treating people with respect should disappear.

Note: So far, out of 102 posts here on The Dadabase, no one has left an inappropriate or disrespectful comment, so thanks for being cool!

I do allow comments with constructive criticism; just not deconstructive criticism. In fact, as the title’s message conveyed, I love and appreciate constructive criticism.

Constructive criticism truly never hurts my feelings or makes me feel bad about myself.  I never take it personally.  Because I am constantly overly aware that in each area of my life, there is still room for improvement.  I depend on people telling me exactly how to improve- whether it’s what I do at work, at home, relationships with people, etc. So while I don’t go around fishing for constructive criticism, I always am excited to hear it. Because it means I get to become better at something.

baby in overallsHowever, constructive criticism means giving specific advice.  If I am told, “You need to work on this,” without being given exact instruction on how to get better, I will in that case, get offended and frustrated. That would be an insult because the person is not respecting me enough to tell me exactly how to help myself.

I live by the belief that if you’re willing to bring up a problem to another person, you need to A) provide a proposed solution and/or B) ask that person to help you find one.

The way I see the world, everyday is filled with constructive criticisms anyway- whether or not it is spoken to me directly by another person.  In fact, much of what I deem “constructive criticism” is actually just daily observational self-teaching. Sometimes it’s little things I observe in my social interactions; like what not to say in a conversation, after receiving a weird look from another person, or an awkward moment of silence. Sometimes it’s learning a better way to interact with my son as he is going through a new phase.  Or learning a quicker way to rock him to sleep.

Each morning when I wake up, it’s like there’s an invisible scorecard that pops up in my head.  It consists of a dozen little empty boxes, ready to be checked off each time I learn something new about myself.  If I don’t learn anything constructive that day, then subconsciously I feel that day has been wasted.  I thrive on constructive criticism; it gives me a sense of validation.

baby puppyWhen someone has the guts to be bold enough to teach me how to improve at anything, I feel an enormous amount of respect for that person.  Why get offended if someone tells me that I have a black bean skin stuck on my tooth?  Instead, I would thank them and respect them for letting me know.  But the importance of constructive criticism doesn’t just apply to after-lunch moments. For me, it applies to all situations in which my world can be improved.

Call it a superhero type of ability, but I literally am immune to being hurt by any criticism that’s constructive.  There is not one tiny fiber anywhere in my body that is the least bit injured when I learn to do something better than the way I’ve been doing it.

I’ve asked other people about how they perceive constructive criticism and some have told me though it would be unwise to ignore good advice, they feel disappointed in themselves for not already doing it the best way to begin with. While I do recognize that as a valid way to feel and while I try to empathize, I simply can’t relate to that mindset.  Because I evidently am wired weird and it seems most people I’ve talked to can not relate to how my mind works regarding this issue.  So I fully acknowledge that I’m weird for thinking the way I do.

Yes, it’s an obsession of mine, but I have to know that I am the best man I can be. I see it as a frivolous goal to try to be better than any other person.  So as a father and husband, I’m not competing with other men.  I am competing with myself.  I am in competition with tomorrow’s version of myself, because tomorrow’s version is more improved than today’s version.  So the one person I am trying to better than is me.

I’m not a perfectionist.  That to me, would be a waste of my energy.  I’m not chasing that magical unicorn of perfection.  I just want to be better than myself and I refuse to let any amount of pride or self-conservation get in the way of that.

BONUS- Wikipedia’s definitions of the two major kinds of criticism:

Constructive criticism aims to show that the intent or purpose of something is better served by an alternative approach. In this case, the target of criticism is not necessarily deemed wrong, and its purpose is respected; rather, it is claimed that the same goal could be better achieved via a different route.

Negative criticism (or deconstructive criticism, as I call it) means voicing an objection to something only with the purpose of showing that it is simply wrong, false, mistaken, nonsensical, objectionable, disreputable or evil. Negative criticism is also often interpreted as an attack against a person.

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  1. by Julia

    On June 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I’ll admit that I’ve definitely been offended and hurt by blog comments before. It is pretty amazing how insecure just ONE anonymous comment can make me feel about a decision that I know in my heart was completely the right one for everyone involved.

    My strategy for dealing with downright nasty comments is a different one, though. I ALWAYS approve them but never reply. Inevitably several readers will jump to my defense and I find that that is far more effective and satisfying than anything I ever could have said myself!

    One more comment– I think your attitude regarding constructive criticism is a great one, and I wish my own skin was that thick!

  2. by Nick Shell

    On June 24, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks Julia. On my personal blogsite (NickShell.com) I tried for a year to do your approach in approving but not replying to “trolls” and other nay-sayers. But I realized that I did let it bother me… So perhaps it’s you with the thick skin. Me… not so much :)

  3. by CaliCat

    On June 28, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I hear you about constructive criticism. I’m dealing with that right now, our 2-yr-old son has a cousin right at his age and I’ve commented on their differences (more active, or more fussy and defiant at mealtime, that kind of thing). Nothing really bad or critical, just observations. But my wife’s sister (cousin’s mom) can’t stand it and has now banned me from their house. I think it’s overreacting. People shouldn’t get bent out of shape over what other people say, whether it’s critical or just a new way of looking at things.

  4. by Nick Shell

    On June 28, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    CaliCat, I’m glad you can relate. Good to know I’m not the only one.

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