Written by contributor Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom
Ever have a day when it feels like you can do nothing right? That your efforts to do well land you flat on your face? That you’re being criticized left and right?
These kind of days are a wonderful wake-up call to me. As much as I hate those feelings of discouragement, they remind me that my kids have days like this, too.
In that moment, I realize that I’m guilty of treating them the way I have just been treated. It gives me pause and makes me mindful of being more encouraging, less critical, and motivated to change.
Here are some of the things that I’ve learned about all that.
1. True encouragement motivates.
There’s a fine line between false praise and true encouragement. Kids (and adults) see through the first, but they thrive on the second. Consider these words of encouragement:
- I like how neatly you did your copy work. It’s so easy to read.
- You had a really good attitude when you tackled your math assignment. I know that’s not your favorite thing.
- Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough summary of the story. That shows me you really understood what you read.
By offering specific encouragements, you’re giving your child a picture of the positive behaviors they’re displaying as well as cluing them into what they should strive to repeat.
Photo by ClicPhoto
2. Empty criticisms deflate.
We’ve all been on the giving and receiving end of empty criticisms. And they are no fun.
- Stop that.
- Why are you always doing that?
- How come it’s taking you so long?
Empty criticisms communicate displeasure, but they don’t help our students know how to improve or even want to. Empty criticisms just let them know they’re in trouble.
Life in the doghouse rarely promotes true change.
3. Constructive criticism guides.
On the other hand, when we offer concrete examples of what we want our children to accomplish and provide specific steps for improvement, we are setting them up for success. It gives them an emotional boost when we identify what they did right, too.
- You wrote such an interesting story about the Celts. I really enjoyed reading it. Can I show you where you might want to add some capitals and punctuation next time?
- I really appreciate your wanting to help your brother do the right thing. Let’s remember to use a soft voice. I think it will be easier for him to listen to you that way.
We all know that kids thrive when we highlight the positives. Unfortunately, in the day-to-day push to get stuff done, we forget to take the long view. Be sure to acknowledge the positives so that they have ears to hear how they can improve.
We can always change.
Truth is, I did my best parenting before I had kids. My own skills in encouragement and constructive criticism need to be honed some more.
But a bad day can be a good teacher.
How do you dole out criticism and encouragement at your house?