We often make casual (but critical) remarks to our children and don't realize the impact we're having. That's the point of a recent Social Qs column headlined, "A Judging Mother."
In a letter to Philip Galanes, a reader--an adult child--lamented how her mother's "casual" comment about her need to put on more makeup (the reader was headed out for a concert) made her feel less confident about the way she looked. This was not the first time. The mother had a habit of this kind of commentary.
Here's the Galanes reply, which I take to heart, mind and try to remember in conversations with my grown children:
"Parents can be nimble-fingered at pushing our buttons — because they installed them. This is especially true in matters of self-esteem, where mere flickers of parental facial muscles can trigger feelings of hurt or outrage.
It’s worth noting that your mom is probably not aware of her outsize influence on you. You’d think that she (and other parents) could translate their own experiences with powerful progenitors into smoother dynamics with their own kids. But strangely, it doesn’t often work that way.
Every morning, when you’re getting dressed, remind yourself that you don’t need approval from anyone. (It’s your face!) And when you next see your mom, say: “Those little things you say and do about the way I look make a big impression on me. I know you mean them kindly, but can you skip them? They make me feel unsure of myself.” You may have to remind her (and yourself) that you’ve got hair and makeup covered. But trust me, you do."