As parents, we’re often placed in a position to show our children what’s right and wrong. It’s not always easy or pleasant; One, which if poorly executed, can wreak havoc in an otherwise loving relationship. Most parents see criticism as a necessary tool to do the job. We just want things to be done within the expected behaviour, time and standard. Our objective is to encourage and motivate our children to do or behave better, or to remove themselves from damaging habits and behaviour.
Unfortunately, while the intention isn’t to punish but to advise, our children may feel otherwise.
No one likes to be criticised. It reduces their self-worth and may cause them to think that they’re not good enough. A quote I received online recently comes to mind. It said: “When you keep criticising your kids, they don’t stop loving you. They stop loving themselves.”
It’s a scary thing when people stop loving themselves. For one, their self-confidence and self-esteem would take a plunge. They’d be hurt by the tiniest negative remark. When the heart isn’t well, nothing seems right. Their academic performance may suffer. They may even have problems connecting with friends and peers. Worse still, the effects may run well into their adulthood, causing havoc within their own family and careers.
When you keep criticising your children, they don’t stop loving you. They stop loving themselves. Let that sink in for a while.
Art of Feedback
I don’t think, as parents, we want our children to think or feel that way. But is there a better way to achieve our objective without damaging the relationship? Yes, there is! It’s the art of giving feedback.
There’s a fine line between “giving feedback” and “criticising”.
While giving feedback to improve something is important and should be done regularly, be extra careful with the choice of words so as not to cross the line. Criticising will cause them to shut down and become defensive.
Giving feedback, however, focuses on pinpointing action and suggesting new ways to improve them. The listener will immediately become receptive and open to learn more.
They’re no longer defensive because they know it’s not about them as a person, but about their action. Action can be right or wrong, but nobody likes to think of themselves as a bad person.
Also, be clear on why we’re giving feedback. It’s not about voicing our dissatisfaction but to improve the situation or the children’s behaviour. We won’t achieve it by being harsh, critical or offensive. Feedback must also be timely as children tend to forget what they did wrong rather quickly.
However, we must be in the right frame of mind.
If we’re too angry, it’s best to cool down first. Let’s educate ourselves on the right way of giving feedback to our loved ones. Stay in the positive zone and look at their good sides too. Appreciate them for that and give feedback for other behaviour. Soon, we’ll find our home to be a more peaceful and inspiring place for all the occupants.
Zaid Mohamad is the bestselling author of Smart Parents, Brighter Kids and Smart Parents, Richer Kids and writes for weekly column in The New Sunday Times.