How to Criticize Other People in Your Child’s Presence

When your child hears you criticize people that he or she loves, resentment about your comments may re­sult. When a child hears you criticize people that you supposedly love, he or she begins to question your claims about love. Your child is apt to think, “If Mom says that about Grandma, and at the same time says she loves Grandma, then what does ‘love’ really mean. What does she mean when she says she loves and val­ues me?”

Your child may also wonder, “What does Dad say about me behind my back? Does he tell me he loves me and values me to my face, and then tell others he hates me and that I’m not worth anything? Can I trust what my Dad says to me as being what he really believes?”


  • Don’t criticize your child’s friends in his or her pres­ence.
  • Don’t criticize an absent parent in your child’s pres­ence (whether he or she is away at work or out of the home owing to divorce or separation).
  • Don’t criticize your own friends or relatives in your child’s presence.
  • Does this mean you should only say good things about people to the exclusion of telling the truth?

No. For example, if your child’s other parent is in prison, your child needs to know that fact. Don’t lie to your child by saying that he or she is away on business. Someone else will tell your child the truth—count on it. Then you’ll be faced not only with the truth of your spouse’s condition, but also with the fact of your own lie! You can tell your child that Mom or Dad has been put in prison for a very serious mistake. You don’t need to tell all the details, but don’t tell your child that your spouse is a dirty, rotten, no-good scoundrel beyond re­demption.

You can tell your child that you really don’t like the way a playmate dresses. Couch your comments in terms of “that’s not my taste” or “I don’t think that’s the best style for her.” But don’t say, your friend is “bad” or “slovenly” or that “she dresses like a slut.” And don’t say, “I think Rod’s parents are crazy for let­ting him wear his hair that way.”

In sum, you may point out to your child certain be­haviors of which you don’t approve, but don’t down­grade the character, reputation, or personality of the friend! Separate deeds from personhood.

Criticism of others can do serious damage to your child’s own confidence and esteem. Be aware that such criticism can confuse your child. Work to avoid criticiz­ing others in the presence of your child.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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