Preparing Your Child to Handle Criticism
As a parent or teacher, it’s important to spend time thinking about how to frame feedback for kids. Whilst the desire is to avoid upsetting them, we all recognise that over protecting a child sets him or her up as very vulnerable when it comes to venturing out of the home.
“The trick is to get your child to learn how to handle criticism gracefully and learn from it,” says Parents advisor Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.
The first step is not to be afraid to offer criticism yourself. Imagine you have always been praised and never received feedback on how you could improve; you would certainly be taken aback if a teacher or new friend told you had done something wrong or suggested you did it another way. It’s your responsibility as a parent to introduce feedback to your child and to teach them the tools for reacting appropriately.
Praise where praise is due… and in proportion. This study highlights the adverse impact of inflated praise on children especially those with low self-esteem.
“…inflated praise decreases challenge seeking in children with low self-esteem and has the opposite effect on children with high self-esteem. These findings show that inflated praise, although well intended, may cause children with low self-esteem to avoid crucial learning experiences.” – Brummelman et al. in study, “That’s Not Just Beautiful—That’s Incredibly Beautiful!”
Once a child is familiar with criticism it’s important you help prepare your child to deal with it when it arises. Here are a few steps:
Talk about feelings.
The emotions you feel when receiving criticism are instinctive and, as it often is with children, the reaction might be disproportionate. Rude retorts, crying or complete withdrawal are all perfectly normal and it’s your job to try and help your child to unpack why they react in this way, so that next time they can better deal with the criticism and move forward from it. Asking them how the criticism made them feel helps them to understand it and allows them to recognise the feeling in the future.
Equip them with tools.
Giving examples of how to deal with criticism can be super useful. Every scenario is, of course, different but this article covers some good examples of criticism and what appropriate responses might be – definitely worth a read so you have some suggestions ready should a similar situation arise.
It can be tricky to get everything right but what you say is just as important as how you say it. When preparing to talk to a child, uncross your arms, put yourself eye level with the child, smile and keep your face relaxed. If you are tense when you hand out criticism, they will be tense when they receive it.
Good, Better, Best.
Never Let it Rest,
Until the Good is Better
And the Better is Best.
No one likes to be criticised but it’s a hugely important part of learning and by helping your child to understand how to cope and respond can only set them up for better self-awareness and personal development in the future.