Kids will do lots of crazy things without thinking in the name of fun. Sometimes I want to laugh at what my kids are doing (which is more fun!) but my role of parent means I have to guide them when they go astray (plus my wife tells me I have too). Here are some ways to criticize kids without damaging your relationship or their self esteem.
When your child has done something that needs addressing, rather than thinking of it as something wrong, see it as an opportunity for growth and relationship building. If you address the issue in a loving manner you will build a strong relationship that will last the years and help grow a strong sense of self esteem in your child.
Follow these steps below for a better outcome when kids actions need addressing:
1. Take a breath and calm down
It is often better to do nothing until you have counted to 10. Bring your emotions into check. If possible bring up the topic later when your tone of voice sounds loving and inquisitive instead of critical and disappointed. My son blurted out recently when I told him off in an unconstructive way “I’m always getting in trouble!” I felt sorry for him and replied “That’s normal. I’m in trouble all the time with your mum too and she was in trouble a lot when she was young”. It made him feel better and too be honest he is hardly ever in trouble. It may get me into more trouble with mum.
2. Address the issue and not the child
Ask your child to evaluate their behavior or performance by asking questions. Remember that tone matters and it is important that your tone convey love and support instead of accusation and judgment.
“Are you happy with how you acted?” “What was going on?” “Do you think that behavior was appropriate in that situation?” “What can you do differently next time?”
Ask them why they feel the way they do and what they learned. Really hear what they are saying and do not judge. Seek a solution together that might work next time. Realize that one discussion may not resolve the issue and it may take several conversations.
3. See failure as an event and not an identity of the child
One of the healthiest things you can do to raise your child’s self esteem is to help them enjoy the process of failure and view it as a growing opportunity. As we all do so they will experience failure as part of their life. Empathize when your child is upset about performance or outcome. “I can tell your pretty upset about this” “What are you feeling right now?” “Can I give you a hug? Is there anything I can do to help?”
4. Help your child strategize
It’s easy to say “I told you so” but it wont win you any friends. (Never say this to your wife!)
Ask your child about times that situations worked out well. “Remember yesterday you played really nice with your sister? What did you do then that you didn’t do today?”
Teach kids that the way to do better next time is to understand which strategies work and what efforts will reap results.
You will be disappointed when your kids repeat mistakes, but remember mistakes are just mistakes. Don’t express anger or withdraw love. If you are a perfectionist yourself then accept that sometimes second best is good enough.
You will be a much calmer parent using the steps above when your lovely darlings have erred in the name of fun and adventure. Sharing your outcomes with others in the comments or forums will give us all hope we can navigate the wide ocean of parenting.