Criticism is painful to hear, especially when it’s coming from someone very close to you. Nagging can be worse. Now imagine how your child feels when you throw harsh words at them. We understand that your intention is to point out your child’s errors to correct their ways but when you end up criticising your children, it can damage their self-esteem, create power struggles, and an unnecessarily tense environment at home. We also understand that as a parent, your responsibility is to correct your child when they do something wrong. But what parents don’t realise is that delivery changes everything when it comes to teaching children good form.
Children, at any age, don’t react to criticism like adults do. Most adults shake off criticism because that’s something they’ve learned to do through the years. But children, almost always, internalise criticism, taking it to heart, and sometimes sustaining emotional wounds in the process. Furthermore, criticising your children can be detrimental to the very goals parents have in mind for their kids. So, why do parents do it? One main reason is that most parents find it hard sometimes to differentiate between discipline and criticism. Children don’t think before they act. They don’t use logic before making decisions and end up being reactive, emotional, and dramatic, repeating a lot of mistakes again and again. As parents, it’s okay to get frustrated but learn to manage emotions before letting them take over in the form of criticism to stop critical parenting.
Discipline Vs Criticism
Discipline and criticism both often happen together but their results are poles apart. Discipline is necessary to steer your child toward the right path while criticism is discouraging and can distract the child from the right path. Criticism forces people to act in one of two ways; either retreating in a shell or rebelling. For kids, criticism leads to them having the feeling of being a disappointment to their parents, forgetting the lesson that came with it. When we discipline, we gently inform them of the mistakes they made and explain the consequences of these mistakes.
Why Do Parents Criticise?
Parents worry because they care. But while worrying about someone is well-intentioned, it’s a slippery slope toward finding fault. And more often than not, this worry can translate into criticism. Kids make a lot of mistakes that need correcting. But there’s a vast difference between correction and criticism. Let’s understand how, as a parent, you can inspire change other than through criticism.
5 Ways To Stop Criticising Your Children
1. Seek Understanding
Before you start criticising your children, try and understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. If your child feels heard and validated by you, they’ll feel more inclined to listen and not be defensive. Sit your child down and let them express themselves as to why they thought taking a certain action, even though wrong, felt right to them. Once you’ve understood their intentions, reevaluate the action for them. Tell them why what they did was wrong instead of scolding them for being wrong.
2. Focus On The Good
For all children, the first message on how the world sees them is from their parents. If the message you’re sending is that they’re not good enough or everything that they do is wrong, their self-image will start turning that way. If you reframe your feedback positively, with compassion and warmth, children will more likely approach the world with confidence and self-respect. While you point out mistakes, put more focus on their strengths instead of counting where they lack. This doesn’t mean that we lift them over their mistakes and discomfort. Feeling such emotions and going through discomfort is important to understand the way of the world, but a parent’s job is to redirect this emotion in a healthier way.
3. Have Realistic Expectations
Making mistakes is normal for a child. Throwing tantrums is normal for a child. Repeating themselves is also completely normal. You cannot lose patience when a child is doing exactly what they’re meant to do. Our buttons get pushed when children aren’t doing what we want. And that’s unrealistic. Yes, having realistic expectations doesn’t mean we should give them what they want. Letting them know that their mistakes are understandable and fine is key.
4. Separate Mistakes From The Person
We cannot identify who children are with their mistakes. Always avoid passing damaging comments like, “Why do you always do that?” or “What’s wrong with you?” Instead ask them, “What do you think went wrong?” Help them figure out the answer to this question. Ask them, “What could I do better next time?” or “What did I learn from this?” once you explain to them their mistake in a compassionate manner.
5. Begin Correction Positively
Before you start correcting your child for their mistake, refer to something that was done right. This could be in the same situation or bringing up a past action that was right on their part. For example, if they’ve taken a toy from someone without the other person’s consent, refer to a past incident when your child has shared with someone. Instruct them on how sharing is the right behaviour instead of snatching. Refrain from saying “but”, string your sentences with “and” instead.
Criticism can stir resentment and feel stifling to all people, not just children. Humans are creatures of emotion and need a bit of help and guidance when it comes to reforming. It’s not easy to be a child as you may remember yourself.