How to not criticise

Communication is defined as ‘the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing or using some other medium’. Criticism on the other hand is defined as ‘the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes’. We need to use communication to positively influence our children’s behaviour in a way that they don’t interpret as criticism.

As parents we are obliged to correct our children, although correction can often be interpreted as criticism.  In order for children to understand that correction is not criticism, parents can follow some of the guidelines below:

  • Give your child lots of encouragement and praise. Explain why you are pleased with them. When positive comments make up the largest part of communication to children they are less likely to interpret correction as criticism.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. This avoids confusion. Children don’t understand sarcasm, exaggeration or jokes. The latter may be misinterpreted and lead to hurt feelings.
  • Consider how you say something. The ‘how’ is more important than ‘what’ you are saying. Tone of voice, volume, gestures and facial expressions speak louder than content.
  • Keep eye contact to show that you are interested.
  • Give your full attention to the child when you speak to them as well as when they speak to you.
  • Set the example! You are your child’s role model. They are going to mimic the way you respond to criticism.

  • Rather deal with the difficulty when you are calmer and not angry anymore. If you need to respond immediately just make your child aware of the incorrect behaviour and tell them that you will discuss it later. 
  • Don’t do or say anything that will hinder the development of the relationship between you and your child. Correction must draw you closer so that closeness can motivate change.
  • Be very sensitive to the child’s feelings. Give them the vocabulary for their feelings. E.g. ‘I can see that what I just said makes you feel frustrated because you are clenching your fists’.
  • Don’t dismiss what the child wants to tell you.
  • Always tell your child that you love him/her. Give lots of hugs and kisses and hold them that extra little bit longer 
  • Address the behaviour.
  • If you are open and honest about everything your child will know that you will be open and honest about their behaviour too.
  • Make time to be alone with each one of your children, even if it is just driving to the shops.
  • Don’t interrupt your child when it is their turn to say something. Read between the lines because they don’t always say everything, but… clarify that you understand them correctly by summarizing what they have said.
  • Use appropriate language, characters, stories, music and humour.
  • Always focus on your child’s strengths.
  • Create the opportunity where your child can correct his/her mistakes.
  • Focus on ‘catching your child doing good’ rather than trying to ‘catch them out’. Encouragement and appreciation are alternatives to correction.
  • The above guidelines take some practice to perfect and to feel comfortable with, but keep trying. If you let your child off with small things it could lead to bigger problems in the future. 

You might want to read more about how you can help your child fit in.