How do you deal with criticism?

My kids are both toddlers on opposite ends of the hellish years between two and four. Lauchie is still sweet, not quite verbal and just getting his head wrapped around the world. Henry is wild, excitable, doesn’t like listening and is, well…three.

No one really tells you about three. They warn you about THE TERRIBLE TWOS but here’s the thing, people who say that: The Terrible Twos are the TWO YEARS between two and four. Not the age of two. And for what it’s worth, I loved it when H was two. He was super kind, really expressive and very excited about everything.

Then he turned three. Oh god. Three. Three year olds are the true monsters of the kid world – aggressive, violent, petulant, rude, forceful and ready to cry-scream at every available opportunity. They don’t listen, they’re downright disobedient and just sort of a nightmare. Especially when you have an already fussy eater and a kid who’s not good at sleeping.

Anyways, this whole preamble was so that I could talk about what’s really on my mind: criticism. This past Thanksgiving, I took my kids (alone) up to a really adult Thanksgiving, where family plied H and L with snacks for hours leading up to a 7pm meal, at which point, my kids REFUSED to eat. They were full and tired. So, like any mom of toddlers, I let them play away from the table. According to a particular family member, this was unacceptable. I am a terrible mother who should have “forced” my three year old to sit down and “shut up” and eat what was given to him. Even though he ate at 5pm (his normal dinner time). Nevermind the fact that dinner was served closer to his bedtime, or the fact that he was, in fact, wonderfully behaved – kind, friendly and very helpful to his uncle and little brother.

This same family member (who is childless) also has let Matt and I know that we are raising a “problem” child who doesn’t listen and is “bad.” Our sweet, regular three year old, whose nickname is Henry Helper at daycare. Apparently, seeing a kid twice a year under extreme circumstances warrants this kind of criticism. And I’m mad. Like really mad. Like, “hot holy hell I’m spitting mad.” But how do I get over this?

Matt says cutting them off is too extreme, but I’ve been told that I’m not a good mother because I’m allowing my kids to be kids. He says our response should just be “shut up” but I’m not sure that’s the right answer either. So, tell me – what have you done if faced with this type of criticism?

Henry’s rapidly approaching four, and we can already see a big amount of better behaviour. When he says things that we dislike (like his constant use of the word BUTT in place of regular words), he catches himself and says SORRY MAMA immediately. He’s still a toddler, but he’s smarter, better behaved and way better at controlling his emotions and using his words to explain his feelings and actions. We knew it was a matter of time, but it’s hard to explain that to someone who’s never actually dealt with a small child for more than a day at a time, right?

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