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My 12-year-old daughter has been giving me critical feedback about my dressing or something I may have said to a neighbour or relative which she thinks was rude or odd, or about my cooking. She does it in the exact way that we have been speaking to her all these years—telling kindly but seriously, and indicating firmly, that whatever the behaviour is, it should be modified. Some of my friends and my husband thinks this shouldn’t be encouraged and she should be ignored. I don’t want to do that, but neither do I want to get into an argument with her on these matters.

“Doing it back" to you is not your child’s intention, I am guessing. Yes, if you have been hypercritical and demanding, a child may want to assert her own right to be counter-critical, particularly as she has stepped into adolescence. But from what you describe, you have not scolded and upbraided her or been an over-strict parent, so it is likely that she is simply computing things on her own about some of the things that you say and do, and feels that she has the space to convey these to you.

Ignoring or shushing her or telling her that she has no say in how you handle things is certainly not a blanket response that you should take recourse to; whatever the other adults around seem to think. First, do see this as a growing young person’s way of asserting her thoughts and feelings, and not simply as precocious behaviour or being disrespectful. No doubt, it is surprising and an odd new feeling to be corrected or in some way upbraided by your child, but you can find different ways to address this.

Perhaps you could come up with a judicious mix of responses, whenever she comes up with critical feedback. One, you could actually take on some of the criticism that she makes, examining her point of view genuinely, because she could well have some point that is valid and would be of use to you. You could then modify whatever you think is needed, in your own behaviour or actions, and thank her for pointing it out (one parent, for instance, was genuinely grateful to his daughter for pointing out that he had begun to speak very loudly in a group). Second, you could hear her out, acknowledge that you understand what she’s saying, but tell her that you are a better judge of the situation, and would like to continue doing things your way (for instance, something to do with your choice of clothes, or home décor, maybe). Third (and the most difficult for her to accept) will be to say that she has misread the situation and that you don’t think what she’s saying is valid at all (for instance, if it’s something about the way you interact with someone, and you believe that your behaviour is not at all inappropriate).

It is important to let a child her age feel that she does have a voice, and that her parents are human and not infallible. You could ask her opinion, actively, on some things, which will also give her the signal that her views matter.

Gouri Dange is the author of More ABCs Of Parenting and ABCs Of Parenting.

To read Gouri’s previous Lounge columns, click here.

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