Love Your Kids? Then Let Them Fail (A Little Bit)

Part of being a good parent is finding balance between criticizing and praising your kids. The more difficult of the two is giving criticism. You find yourself torn between a desire to teach your kids, bolster their self-esteem and protect them from pain.

While we are comfortable celebrating their achievements with them, we hesitate when it comes to giving constructive criticism. Somehow, we have become convinced that out kids will fall apart if they receive even the slightest bad news about themselves. So we instead try to sugarcoat or bend the truth all in an effort to make any kind of negative feedback more palatable.

Criticism Isn’t All Bad

We all face criticism at one point, both constructive and destructive, and what matters is how we deal with it. As it turns out, a little constructive criticism isn’t a bad thing. It can help us grow and become better by revealing areas in our lives that need improvement.

Learning to accept criticism or receive feedback from others is a key skill that is essential to your kids’ development. Accepting criticism graciously is a sign of maturity and shows that they’re interested in self-improvement.

It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, it’s never too late to teach them how to receive feedback from others. If they’re young, this skill comes in handy when they’re learning to socialize. If your kids are in their teens, accepting constructive feedback goes hand in hand with having a good work ethic. Helping your teen learn this skill prepares them for the workplace where they’ll have to receive constant feedback and constructive criticism from their supervisors.

Accepting Criticism

The thing about criticism is that it’s hard to take. Being criticized is uncomfortable and it can feel like a personal attack. We all want to be accepted and feel good about ourselves and the moment someone judges us negatively it triggers doubts about our self-worth or competence.

For kids and teens who are still learning to manage their emotions, criticism can be quite painful. Teens especially want to fit in, be respected and treated like adults. This is a stage of life where they are vulnerable and self-conscious so any hint of censure or reproach might make them go on the defensive. If they feel attacked on a personal level, they’ll react by getting upset or angry and they may be tempted to retort rudely or act out.

Unfortunately, none of these reactions is helpful and your teen might be labelled “difficult”, stubborn or just rude. Kids need to learn to back off from the defensive and to stop taking constructive criticism personally. They should instead use it as a way to identify their weaknesses and find areas that need improvement if they’re to reach their potential. This means adopting a growth mindset and being willing to change and improve.

Tips on Teaching Kids to Take Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is often intended to help someone become better in some way. However, in the heat of the moment your teen may react in anger or defensiveness.

Here are some tips you can share to help them overcome these responses and learn to take constructive criticism well.

Listen respectfully.

Criticism, even when it’s constructive is difficult to hear. Your teen may get upset, focus on a retort or feel like they’re being attacked so they may want to jump into the conversation to defend themselves.

Explain that it’s better to listen respectfully and hear the speaker out. While at it, your teen needs to keep their facial expression and body language respectful and focus on the entire message.

Ensure you understand.

Most times, when being given feedback, we tend to hear something different from what was intended. This is why listening and understanding are important. To ensure they understand what’s being shared, your kid can ask brief questions for clarity, make respectful comments to show their understanding or even reword what has been said.

Only after making sure they’ve understood the issue should your teen respond.

Ask for specifics.

When it’s time to respond, your teen can seek clarification by asking for specifics on the observations that were shared. Vague feedback isn’t useful as it can create more confusion, making it difficult to identify what needs changing. For instance, if your teen plays baseball and the coach says he needs to improve, he can ask whether he needs to improve his catching, pitching or hitting.

Ask for advice.

In addition to asking for specifics, your teen can also ask the person providing feedback for advice on how to improve and become better. This shows that your teen has an open mind and he is sincerely interested in making an improvement. Asking for advice also shows strength of character and that he harbors no grudges against the one providing constructive criticism.

Follow up with positive action.

Accepting constructive criticism is good but it needs to be followed by action. Teach your kids to discern genuine feedback from unhelpful or malicious criticism. Once that’s done, they can then make the necessary changes taking into consideration the advice they’ve been given.

While constructive criticism may not be pleasant, learning how to accept it graciously is a skill that will come in handy in your kid’s life.

What’s your take? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.

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