Because they think that to be a good parent they must be constantly watchful in order to teach their children. They see correcting them as loving and a parent’s job.
Or, sometimes it is because the parent wants the child to make the parent proud, to show the world that the parent is a good one. It has to do with the parent’s ego gratification.
Sometimes it is because the parent is perfectionistic. It is his/her personality style to pay attention to detail and to have high expectations. This type of parent most likely has high expectations not only of the child but also of her/himself and others. This is a person who may criticize family, friends, acquaintances and perhaps even strangers. Some people with this type of personality talk ill of others behind their backs and may even criticize the person directly to the his/her face. And this is probably a person who is highly anxious and/or depressed.
In rare cases the overly-critical parent is a truly unkind person. This individual, underneath, is actually insecure and has enormous self hatred By “putting down” others the unkind person feels a fleeting moment of superiority. But it doesn’t last and this type of person must continually feed these insecure feelings by finding reason after reason to use “one-upsmanship.” This keeps the low self-worth buried.
For this type of person children are a favorite target. That is, it’s easy to use little people who can’t defend themselves as a release for hostile feelings of any kind They may even find fault with a child when they cannot or will not aim the criticism toward the adult that it is meant for but who might have more power to hurt them back.
No matter what the reason overly-critical parents can cause almost irreparable harm to a child’s self-image and feelings of self-worth. It is destructive because children’s reference-points for self-worth are the people closest to them — especially their parent figures. They inherently expect these big people to provide them with honesty but also with safety.
And they should be providing them with safety, both physically and emotionally. Constant criticism confuses them and hurts them and affects their ability to trust themselves and others in the future.
I mentioned above that overly-critical parents can cause “almost irreparable harm….” I said almost. Some children are more resilient than most and escape with only moderate injury (but even moderate injury is unfair). And if adults find a way to discontinue this detrimental approach they can reverse the damage and the child can heal.
So, if you or anyone you know is overly critical of children take this information to heart. If a parent-figure (or, by the way, a teacher, babysitter, grandparent, etc.) is unsure whether they are overly-critical rather than appropriately correcting with children they should consider the following:
- How would you feel in the child’s place?
- Do many people (not just one or two) tell you that they think you “pick on” a child or more than one child or that you are “mean” to them or that you are “too hard” on them?
- Does the child seem to act overly-shy, wet the bed, act fearful, behave badly on a regular basis, constantly talk to you with disrespect, cry a lot? (These can be due to many other causes but should be considered a problem to be addressed no matter what the suspected reason.)
If you as an adult suffer the results of this type of childhood you know all about this. It’s difficult to feel good about yourself if pleasing adults was next to impossible when you were growing up, right?