Avoid Criticism: Use Feedback

Criticize, and you will often get resistance and hard feelings. This is the case when you are criticizing something over which the youngster feels little control. Encouraging in a supportive way is much more effective.

Criticizing is almost always interpreted as, “What you are doing isn’t good enough.” Such comments stimulate negative feelings. Instead, encourage young people by communicating a higher expectation. For example, if your child is slow to get going in the morning, try this approach: “Yesterday, it took 10 minutes to come to breakfast after I called you. I know you can do better than that. Let’s see if today you can come to breakfast in 8 minutes.” Using this approach, watch your child rise to the occasion and come to breakfast faster. The success can be explained by the fact that people enjoy rising to a challenge.

Criticizing our children stems from a sincere desire to help them. Unfortunately, we focus on what is “wrong,” thinking this will motivate them to put more effort into those areas. We want them to become capable and successful in their weaker areas. The problem is that criticism and nagging prompt people to feel worse, not better. In most cases these negative approaches don’t create the motivation we are hoping for, and they certainly don’t build a positive self-image in the recipient.

After a meeting with teachers, the youngster said to his mother, “Why didn’t they talk more about my social studies—what I’m good at—instead of what I’m not good at? All they want to do is fix what’s wrong with me.” The mother responded, “They are trying to help you.” The child retorted, “No, they are trying to fix me.”

Criticism is rarely thought of as “feedback,” but feedback is essential for encouraging growth and maturity. Giving guidance is a parental obligation and far more effective than criticism. The awareness of the negative effects of criticism and the positive effects of empowerment is one of the most distinguishing marks of superior parenting.