Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Tween & Teen Advice

Constructive Criticism that doesn’t Damage Self-Esteem

  • Mia Von Scha
  • Category Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Tween & Teen Advice

I was reading an article recently that said that most children at pre-school level have a very high self-esteem compared to only about 30% who still felt this by the end of Primary School. There are a number of things that we can do to safeguard against this loss of confidence such as having a high self-esteem ourselves, allowing for mistakes, not comparing our kids to each other and being present for them, but the one I’d like to point out is the need to watch the way in which we criticize.

We all need to correct our children at some point, and it is important to do this in such a way that they still feel loved and valued. Part of this is to continually reiterate that they are not their behavior – if something needs to be corrected, it is the behavior that is problematic and not them.

Another useful tip is to use the feedback sandwich. A feedback sandwich means that we begin with a compliment or some form of positive feedback, then move on to the thing or behavior that needs to be modified, the criticism itself, and then end with another positive reinforcement. For example…

I am really impressed with the effort you have put into your schoolwork this term (positive feedback) AND I think that even though you really need to put in a bit of extra time on your maths (criticism), that if you keep working this well you are going to ace this year (positive feedback).

Please note the use of the word AND rather than BUT. When you say something and then add a BUT to it, your child will disregard the entire first part of the sentence as untrue.

You will notice that this kind of criticism leaves the child feeling good rather than feeling terrible and wanting to give up. Please keep in mind that the positive feedback must be genuine – it shows that you have really noticed something that they are doing or are doing well and that you’re not just making something up to make them feel better.

And remember to compliment your children at other times too – let’s put as much effort into catching them doing things right as we do into catching them doing things wrong!

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