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Ways to Give Constructive Criticism to Kids

by K. Nola Mokeyane, studioD
Constructive criticism allows kids to learn from their mistakes while still feeling good about themselves and their abilities.

Constructive criticism allows kids to learn from their mistakes while still feeling good about themselves and their abilities.

As your child progresses through life, he'll make mistakes. As a parent, it's your responsibility to correct these errors, but it takes the right approach to correct your kid's mistakes or else you risk harming his self-esteem or causing problems in your relationship, says Becky L. Spivey with Super Duper Publications, a company that creates educational and therapeutic materials for children. Using the right tools to offer your child constructive criticism encourages healthy cognitive and emotional development.

The 'Sandwich' Approach

Constructive criticism highlights both the positive and negative aspects of your child's actions, according to a 2011 article on the Everyday Health website. The article cites family therapist Denise Glassmoyer who recommends the "sandwich" approach to constructively criticizing your child, which means you offer him positive feedback before and after informing him of his mistakes. For example, if you're constructively criticizing your child's performance during a basketball game, you might frame your criticism like this: "Your defense and teamwork were strong in the game. You might want to work on your free throw shots, using more of your wrist. Otherwise, overall, you played well and I'm really proud of you." With this approach, your child hears that he's a good player who has room for improvement, which will encourage him to work on his weaknesses.

Be Ready to Teach

Parents should be ready to teach their child appropriate behaviors and actions when offering constructive criticism, according to the Everyday Health article. Criticism should be aimed at the behavior or actions, not the child, and parents should have their children's undivided attention when teaching appropriate behavior. If your child's leaving food particles on dishes that he's washed, teach him your technique for properly washing dishes, as opposed to yelling at him or assuming he's lazy. Approach him and say, "I know you work really hard at washing the dishes every night -- and I appreciate that. But for the past few weeks I've noticed that there's been some food stuck on some of the dishes. I used to do this when I was about your age, too. May I show you the way I've learned to wash dishes?"

Watch Your Tone

Your child will probably not be responsive to your criticism if it's given in a condescending or aggravated tone. While it's certainly frustrating to pull dishes out of the cabinet with dried spinach on them, approach your child when you're calm and clear-headed. It's difficult enough to receive criticism because no one really wants to hear about their mistakes, says psychiatrist Harry Croft at HealthyPlace.com, so it's important that you use a loving tone when correcting your child's errors. If you sense that you're aggravated, but feel you need to address an issue immediately, take a few deep breaths to calm yourself before approaching your child. If the matter isn't pressing, give yourself as much time as you need -- even go for a walk -- before correcting your child's behavior.

Solicit Your Child's Point of View

You might think your perspective of your child's actions is the most accurate, but that might not be so. In a 2011 "Harvard Business Review" article, author and CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, notes that when people offer feedback, they assume their opinions are more valid than others'. Croft, with HealthyPlace.com, says that it's best to try to see life from your child's perspective before offering an unjust criticism. For instance, if your child is repeatedly passing the ball to his teammates instead of taking shots himself, ask him why he's making these choices, as opposed to criticizing his unwillingness to take shots. You might assume he's afraid to shoot the ball, but upon talking to him you might learn he's following his coach's instructions, or using this technique of passing the ball as way to build rapport with his teammates.

About the Author

K. Nola Mokeyane has written professionally since 2006, and has contributed to various online publications, including "Global Post" and Modern Mom. Nola enjoys writing about health, wellness and spirituality. She is a member of the Atlanta Writer's Club.

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