Getting Critical: 4 Alternatives to Criticising Your Child
Proponents of constructive criticism assert that it is important for parents to criticize their children so they can correct behaviour or motivate better performance. However, it is equally important to consider that criticizing a child often has negative implications for his development and sense of self-efficacy. There are better ways to help your child improve and succeed. Here are some alternatives to criticising your child:
1. Criticize the Behaviour or Performance
In one of their experiments, Melissa Kamins and Carol Dweck, researchers at the Columbia University, found that kindergarten children who were personally criticized by their teacher for building a Legos house without windows felt terrible about their capabilities. These children were likely to think that they were not good enough compared to the kids whose outcome (a house without windows) not personhood was criticized. Even if you are disappointed by your child’s performance or behaviour, it is best to focus on the correcting the behaviour or performance than simple saying “You cannot do anything right,” “You have disappointed me.” A better approach would be to say, “You did not perform as good as you did last time or as we expected.”
2. Teach Empathy
According to studies by Prof. Joan E. Grusec of the University of Toronto and Maayan Davidov of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, children who learn to be empathic are friendlier, less likely to engage in hurtful behaviour and are more oriented to solving problems effectively. Instead of criticizing your child’s selfish behaviour and telling her how “bad” of a child she is, teach her how to consider other people’ feelings and how his actions have an impact on other people. For example, if your child likes to throw a fit in public, causing you embarrassment, it is unwise to say to him “You are such a bad, annoying child.” Instead, tell him, “It is not good to throw fits unnecessarily, you can hurt others, damage things and make mommy feel stressed out.”
3. Solve Problems as a Team
Loving parents are committed to nurturing their children, whether the child is a toddler or a teenager. Solving problems together is one of the best ways to nurture your child and to avoid criticising. When you solve problems with your child, he is likely to feel empowered and believe in his capabilities even when he does not perform well or struggles with certain emotions or behaviours. For example, your 9-year-old son is not performing too well in Math; do you tell him how he will never be good at Math, how he never puts enough effort to study, how all his friends at school are doing well at math? No. Solve the problem together. Find out why your child seems to be underperforming, discuss the issues at hand with him, ask him what he thinks should be done, suggest solutions such as extra tuition that might help your child improve his performance.
4. Let it Go
Criticism can easily get out of hand when you keep focusing on the “bad” the “disappointments” the little things that are not being done. A great alternative to criticizing is to train yourself as a parent to let go of the small things that really do not require critiquing. For example, if your 5 year old breaks his cup, labelling him as “careless” “sloppy” “good for nothing” “always breaking stuff” is not an appropriate response to an act so negligible. As a loving parent, assess carefully when you should say something about your child’s performance, behaviour or action. Are you reacting from your own anger and stress or are you truly looking out for the best interest of your child when you say to him “I am disappointed.” If it is not a big deal, don’t make it one.