Empower your kids by teaching criticism

  • Sun Oct 17th, 2010 6:50pm
  • Life

By Wendy Donahue Chicago Tribune

Criticism is tough to take — and getting tougher all the time for some teens and 20-somethings.

“I’ve noticed increasingly as we get students in the millennium generation that they do have a hard time not getting the grade they want and reading critical comments. They want A’s,” said Frances Stott, professor at the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development.

Learning to accept criticism and evaluate one’s behavior empowers a child for life.

“Kids, by 5 or 6 years old, are ready cognitively to appreciate that other people are observing and evaluating them,” Stott said.

Wise parents help their children with probing observations, Stott said. For instance, you might say, “I noticed yesterday that Sally didn’t want to play with you. Do you have any ideas of why that might be?”

With some guidance, the child might respond, “It could be that Sally is having a bad day. Or it could be because I didn’t share.”

“This helps the child see that they could do something about it,” Stott said. “If you can own up to your own mistakes, it ultimately gives you more control because you can then fix it. It’s paradoxical because it’s painful, even as an adult, to think, ‘I said something I shouldn’t have said.’ On the other hand, actually knowing that is better than doing it again.”

Aaron Cooper, a family psychologist and co-author of “I Just Want My Kids to Be Happy: Why You Shouldn’t Say It, Why You Shouldn’t Think It, What You Should Embrace Instead,” says:

“We can’t teach our children self-control if we don’t say no and set plenty of limits. And, of course, children will be unhappy when we do. That’s natural. So when we make our kids’ happiness the most important thing, we often abdicate that role of disciplinarian and teacher and corrector.”