Promoting positive behaviour through constructive criticism
Unless children are doing something that poses a high risk of disastrous results, sometimes it’s best to let them figure things out on their own and learn through the experience rather than telling them step-by-step what they should or shouldn’t have done or could have done better. Experience is sometimes the best teacher. “Constructive criticism” should be encouraging, helpful, and timely – not negative. When offering children constructive criticism about their work, behaviors, or attempts at doing things on their own, think about the following:
- Even though a parent may be frustrated with a child’s behaviour, they should not use belittling language, an angry or frustrated tone of voice, or making fun of a child’s honest mistakes.
- When there is a need to critique, be ready to teach. A parent should have a child’s undivided attention before voicing their concerns. Direct constructive criticisms toward the behaviour or mistake, not the child. Parents should set the example of what they want their children to learn by taking the time to show them. Ask “May I tell/show you what usually works for me?” “Let me show you what helps me…” Offer the child an opportunity to correct his/ her mistake whether it’s repeating a chore that wasn’t done properly or correcting an inappropriate or incorrect behavior.
- Never make one-sided, hurtful comments; be ready to address specific actions or behaviors with a lesson or helpful and thoughtful suggestion. Using positive words yields positive results. “You really do __________ well. Next time, you might also try…” “This way helped me a lot when I was learning to…”
- Never use name-calling or label, even in jest, as it is really hurtful for a child and will affect their self-esteem. Never openly criticize children in front of others. It’s hard enough to accept criticism, even constructive criticism, when there is an audience present.
- Take advantage of teachable moments by offering help and constructive criticism – unless it really just isn’t the time or place to do so. Timing is everything; a parent should not wait until the child has forgotten the incident or mistake. A parent needs to make it clear to a child that they are offering suggestions and constructive criticism so he/she can do better next time. Don’t dwell on a child’s past mistakes. Constructive criticism is for the future, not the past.
- Parents should use a voice that has the tone of a helpful attitude. A knee-jerk reaction of screaming and yelling or using other derogatory remarks deflates self-esteem and falls on deaf ears. If a child hears an angry voice, that’s all he/she will hear. Our goal as parents is to give constructive criticism as painlessly and tactfully as possible so the child will receive it properly and learn from it.
- Remember, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. When children realize their own mistakes, they are less likely to repeat them. There is nothing to gain by pointing out and dwelling on their mistakes when it’s obvious they learned something from them.
©Lifestart Foundation 2018