Diary of A Criticism Fast

As parents, we sometimes act as if it is our solemn duty to correct our kids’ every misstep. If they yell at their sibs, we feel we must scold them; if they carelessly spill their juice, we feel we must call them on it. I think at some level, we fear that if we don’t – if we let any misbehavior “slip by” – we are neglecting our job as parents or lying down on the job.

But how many of us grown-ups ever think about what it would feel like to have a little voice following us around, correcting us every time we messed up? Imagine – every time we took an extra cookie from the cookie jar, every time we snuck a snack before dinner, every time we (gulp!) spoke less-than-respectfully to our kids or spouse, or every time we made a careless mess – someone would immediately pounce with a “helpful” critique. What would that do to our state of mind? What would it do to our sense of individual responsibility? Heck, what would it do to our self-esteem?

It is in this spirit that I plan to embark for the next two weeks on a “criticism fast” or “negativity detox”. I first read about the idea of short-term behavioral change experiments on www.stevepavlina.com, a personal growth website. I like the idea of a temporary “fast” of this kind for a number of reasons.

First, behavioral changes are much easier to implement for short, defined periods of time. It is much harder, and less realistic, to commit to changing yourself permanently in one fell swoop. If I had a dime for every New Year’s resolution I made but never kept, I’d be a seriously rich woman.

Second, temporary change allows for a certain amount of experimentation and for a reassessment at the end of the “fast”.  I don’t know yet whether a total lack of criticsm will in fact prove to be an effective parenting mode, or whether it will turn out to be unrealistically restrictive. At the end of the two week period, I may very well come to the conclusion that in certain cases criticism was called for and should have been employed. A two week fast gives me the flexibitily to “test drive” the idea and see how it plays out, without constantly worrying that I am doing the wrong thing.

My hypothesis: If I employ only positive forms of behavioral correction on a regular basis – intervening only when truly necessary, and even then with purely positive messages – my son will be happier, less defensive, and even better behaved. Communication between us will improve, and power struggles will all but disappear.

The rules: Absolutely no criticism, scolding, or negative feedback for two weeks. Behavioral issues, no matter what they are, may only be dealt with through positive feedback, empathetic listening and truly friendly reminders. Each day I will post my experiences, thoughts and progress – and, as always, I’d love to hear your comments!

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