NEVER CRITICIZE.

NEVER CRITICIZE, ALWAYS ENCOURAGE.

On a chilly Sunday evening, we stayed put and watched “London Has Fallen”. I know it was widely criticized, so I didn’t expect much. And I was pleasantly surprised. First of all, it’s in no way different from “Olympus Has Fallen”. Well, it is in that the action takes place in and around London. And while in the previous one it is mostly and only the White House that gets destroyed, in this one even Westminster Abbey suffers which is more difficult to absorb: it’s been there for almost a thousand years! The way the terrorist attack is shown, with the perpetrators streaming in from every nook and cranny and crevice is quite scary. One understands that all those people who do not care about either human beings or the surrounding culture have been in place and getting ready for quite some time. It does not matter what personal motive for their actions is put forward. We know that Mike Banning will save the world again. “There are at least a hundred of them inside!” he is warned. “So what? I have to save the president!” he answers, in true Commando (as in Arnold Schwarzenegger movie) fashion. And his Plan B is copied after the best of action heroes, e.g. Bruce Willis in Die Hard: “Get my daughter and kill them all”. Well, in this case get the president, who is rather more active than in the first film.

As often happens in the movies, the characters discuss something unrelated to their current dangerous situation at a moment when their lives are under threat. Mike is expecting his first child, and he asks the president about parenthood. This, we understand, is what really scares him. What if he is not the best father in the world? And how can one know what to do? The president smiles under fire and gives him this solid advice: “Never criticize; always encourage”. As for the rest of it, he assures his bodyguard, “you’ll figure it out”.

 

This phrase stayed with me, I found myself returning to it again and again. I happened to read an interview with Jason Isaacs, probably better known to Harry Potter fans as Lucius Malfoy. and to us romantic genre fans as e.g. the father from “Abduction”, remember how he relentlessly trains young Taylor Lautner; or as Michael Britten from the short-lived TV show “Awake”, that’s the one where his character exists in two parallel worlds simultaneously. Jason Isaacs spoke about one of his teachers who would hiss into his ear, “Nothing will ever come out of you, you won’t have any roles”. This reminded me of so many true life examples! The internet musical sensation Lindsey Stirling was told while live on TV, by Sharon Osborne, that “nothing will ever come out of her strange music”. Many teachers do that to students at school. I firmly believe btw that one of the reasons J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is so appealing to adults is the way school is shown. Harry is lucky to have not only Snape but also Dumbledore and McGonagall among his teachers. Young people need support and encouragement. What prompts adults, especially teachers, to criticize and pronounce judgment, to make sweeping generalizations, to try and denigrate and discourage others? I think it is envy and jealousy. Or maybe it is the fact that some people are kind while others are mean.

 

Yes, it is hard not to burst out into criticism when one’s own children or one’s students do something wrong. It is also well-known to any decent educator and any experienced parent that it is useless to ask children, especially teenagers, why they did this or that. “Nothing. Nobody” is the usual answer we get from adolescents when we ask them what they are doing or who called them. Younger kids would simply say “I don’t know” – because they really don’t. It is much harder to support one’s kids, always, and yet it’s the one measure that brings tremendous positive results. “There is nothing my daughters cannot do”, wrote Agatha Christie about her mother’s attitude in her “Autobiography”. She comes back to those magic words again and again, and her whole life proves how important it was for her and her sister to have this unwavering support and trust. Lindsey Stirling spoke candidly about how devastated she felt after that cruel summary of her performance, and how incredibly supportive her family was. Many people would name their parents, and sometimes their teachers, as the people who helped them to reach their goals.

 Never criticize; always encourage.

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