How to Stop Being a Critical Parent

Critical parents, even if well intended,  can be damaging.

Their kids are never good enough.

Compliments are impossible to come by.

They correct, remind and instill deficits instead of capabilities.

how to stop being a critical parent

They discourage children from being authentic & never fails to notice shortcomings.

They are often dismissive of feelings.

Children learn to anticipate their own failure because despite their best efforts, they’ve received disapproval, repeatedly.

The repeated narrative becomes their internal tape, replaying self-criticism and feelings of unworthiness.

Critical parents make their children feel undeserving and unworthy of love.

If being a critical parent is so damaging, then how do we correct it?

How To Stop Being a Critical Parent

Label Your Compliments

Instead of “good job”

Try “You were so thoughtful when you gave your brother your old toys.”

What specifically was “good” that they did?

Recognize and emphasize exactly what you appreciate. 

When you use “good job” their success becomes subjective; It’s based on whether or not you think they’re “good”.

Essentially, you’re teaching them to look for approval from others.

Instead, label what’s admirable that they’re doing well, or even attempting to do well.

Instead of them chasing subjective approval, they will learn to stand by the values you’ve instilled, like integrity and good character; regardless of approval.

Here are some examples;

Great job → It’s so kind of you to share

You’re a good brother → Standing up for your sister was really brave

Thank you → Thank you for listening

It feels weird at first and it’s unnatural for most of us. Your kids might even give you a strange look.

How to Stop Being a Critical Parent

Even though you’ll feel odd, try to sound genuine.

Like anything else, learning how to stop being a critical parent takes some practice.

After all, we do want to see those “good” things from our kids.

Being specific will just make it easier for them to understand what “good” means & they’ll feel recognized when they do accomplish it.

Allow Self Expression

Avoid shaming anyone (not just your kids) about their

  • Interests
    • Shaming your son for being interested in Beyoncé isn’t going to make it go away
    • It’s just going to make him feel ashamed about it
    • Remember that your kids can hear you making fun of the neighbor boy for liking Beyoncé too
  • Sexuality
    • Shaming kids for their sexuality does not change their sexuality
    • It just makes them feel ashamed of it 
  • Feelings
    • Sometimes emotions are uncomfortable
    • Tons of people have been shamed for having emotions & left unsure of what to do with them

When children inevitably experience emotions it’s not uncommon to see parents scoff at them, minimize, mock, or discredit them.

As uncomfortable as emotions can be, learning how to stop being a critical parent is about normalizing them, not shaming kids for having them.

All humans, including kids, are going to have waves of emotions.

As parents, we are not responsible for

  • Making feelings go away
  • Solving all the problems in a child’s life
  • Shielding children from their consequences

Hopefully it gives you some relief knowing that you don’t control those things, let them go & focus on what you can do as a parent.

What are parents responsible for?

  • Supporting children through tough times
  • Exampling healthy coping mechanisms
  • Holding kids accountable

Even though we have responsibilities as parents, we don’t need to be perfect at them.

Exampling imperfection is admirable and will let your kids feel like they have some grace for mistakes; which is crutial if you’re learning how to be stop being a critical parent. 

Learn How To Listen

Parenting isn’t always about listening to your kids, but there are times when it is.

When the time comes, do just that

  • Be Quiet
  • Reflect On What Children Say
  • Avoid Distractions
  • Use Appropriate Body Language
  • Forget About You
  • Remember, Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter 
  • Limit Verbal AND Non-Verbals When You’re Listening
  • Ask For Clarity But Limit Questions
  • Avoid Unsolicited Advice
  • Mirror Them
  • Lastly, NEVER Disagree

how to stop being a critical parent

Here is a Post That Elaborates on Each Of These Listening Skills

Control Your Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal emotion and it serves a purpose. But, uncontrolled anxiety causes problems.

Anxious parents often create anxious kids.

Anxious parents anticipate unrealistic outcomes 

  • Unrealistic results
  • Unrealistic negativity
  • Unrealistic responses from everyone/thing on earth
  • Unrealistic problems

An anxious parent narrates a world that negatively dramatizes the possible outcomes.

That dog could bite. You could get burnt. You might get hurt. 

He’s going to fall. He’s going to fall. HE’S GOING TO FALL.

(He doesn’t fall)

You might get lost. That’s not safe. She could have germs. 


That could get infected. That looks infected.

Kids internalize parental feedback.

how to stop being a critical parent

Which means,

Kids begin to anticipate unrealistic negative outcomes often….

which could also be called → An Anxiety Disorder. 

If you suffer with anxiety, try to get a handle on it.

You could try

It’s a tough one. Because anxiety keeps us alive.. But there is a balance & you’ll improve your quality of life (and your kids) if you can find it.

Here are some links that might help.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Medications For Anxiety

→ Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Notice EFFORTS > Accomplishments

Even if they failed a test, came in last place, or missed the mark. Find a silver lining & bring it to light.

Did they at least study?

Did they try really hard?

Did they still show up?

Did they keep a level head?

There is almost always something positive that you can point out. By doing so, you’re showing them that despite “failing” they are still admirable & worthy of love.

It’s worth learning how to stop being a critical parent because

The words that kids say to themselves were first spoken by a parent.

How to Stop Being a Critical Parent


Here’s a TED talk on the topic (from a kid)





Other Content Related to Learn How to Stop Being a Critical Parent

10 Exercises to Stop Negative Thinking

9 Tips For How to Get Out of Victim Mentality

50 Signs You’re Healing from Trauma

Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma: 4 Truths You Should Know




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