Saturday, July 9th, 2011
I find it fascinating that as parents, we are often quick to point out the perceived flaws of other parents, as if it’s some game to “out” who the “bad parents” really are in our society.
After 48 hours of being published, my post “Positively Communicating with My Seven Month Old Son” received over 1,300 “likes” on Facebook. Interestingly, during that same short period of time, on Parents Magazine’s Facebook page my article received 167 comments; most of them vehemently criticizing me, while some passionately supported and defended me.
I’m learning just how polarizing my perspective on parenting can be. When I published that post, I had no idea that it would ever become so popular, as well as, so infamous. I just thought it was another post like any other day. It didn’t stand out as particularly special to me. Boy, was I wrong- because it hit a sweet spot for so many readers and struck a nerve with the rest. People either completely loved it, or hated it as much as I despise the TV show 16 and Pregnant.
Some of the best entertainment I’ve had in a while was reading through all the comments on the Facebook wall for Parents Magazine. While I felt so encouraged from those who supported me, the majority of the people who opposed my viewpoint said some really angry and/or hilarious stuff. (One of my favorite comments involves a unicorn.)
A common occurrence from several readers was the feeling that my tone was snobbish. This was implied because I stated I don’t like to see parents sarcastically joke about giving their kids away to strangers in public. (What about parents who can’t have children? How do they feel when they witness this same event?)
Sure, it regularly crosses my mind that having a child is tough; especially when he is not behaving as I would like. But I’m his dad and I’m suppose to be his number one supporter, not his number one critic.
Am I naïve and inexperienced when it comes to being a parent? Of course I am. I’ve only been a dad for seven months.
I have to speculate that that has something to do with why Parents.com chose me as their official daddy blogger, instead of a seasoned veteran who actually knew what they were doing. My lack of experience is one of the reasons The Dadabaseis interesting- because I am a newbie. I am learning something new as a parent everyday. I am wet behind the ears; that’s sort of my specialty here.
However, I was additionally perceived as a snob because some readers felt that I do not yet have the authority to write about communicating with my child because he is so young. But like I said in the article, I’m setting up the patterns now for how I will speak to him as he gets older. After all, it’s a gradual process and this is my way of preparing for it.
Another reoccurring (and I believe, caricatured) perception of me from those who disagreed with my viewpoint is that I am a hippie living in La La Land. That I am just so easygoing that my son is going to walk all over my wife and me as he gets older. That I am so preoccupied with not speaking sarcastically to my son that I will completely neglect the need for discipline.
Ironically, just a couple of days ago I did a Dadabase post about I how endorse and practice the “cry it out” method to get my son to sleep at night, prompting one reader to post this comment: “Actually, what you have done is not teach him to sleep well, but teach him that, no matter how hard he cries, how scared and alone he feels, or what his needs may be, you will not be there for him… Congratulations!”
The truth is, I actually worship the importance of creating structure for my son, setting realistic expectations for him, and when the time eventually comes, following through with discipline; not just threatening it.
It’s interesting to me that I am paradoxically both a snob and a hippie. What a weird combo.
Side note: Thanks to the Facebook wall comments, I was made aware of the fact that there was a typo in the article. I said “my wife and I” when I should have said “my wife and me.” My college degree is in English, of all things. So that’s one embarrassing faux pas. I went back and fixed it.
To some, I came across as a snob who thinks I am better than other parents and that my parenting style is superior to theirs. Similarly, these same readers jumped at the chance to criticize me for disagreeing with their own parenting technique. Is it safe to assume that these readers who so passionately disagree think that their parenting style is superior to mine?
As parents, we all do what works best for us and what we believe will be best for our children. We all have controversial parenting styles compared to other parents out there.
But while it may appear that I am clueless or fanatical to be so darn positive, just know this: My head may be in the clouds, but my feet are planted firmly on solid ground.
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Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
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?
It’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.
However, 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.
When 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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