Making Criticism Count

Keeping the criticism to a minimum and spreading the love with our kids.

All parents have expectations of their children. How could our children get ahead if we did not expect things from them? We want them to get good grades, be polite, be helpful, be friendly, be clean, be quiet, and the list goes on. Like other parents, I want these things from my children. I have one problem though, if I do not monitor myself, I can be too critical of my children.

I am certainly no Tiger Mom, with screaming and forcing my kids to work hours on end at the same task. I can’t do that myself so how can I ask my kids to do it? But, I can be overly critical of what my children are doing: You cannot wear THAT shirt to school, why did you spill the dog food, you need to brush your teeth better.

I think all parents can sound like barking Chihuahuas instead of mature adults if they aren’t careful.

It is easy to get into a funk where we are constantly criticizing. Nitpicking is a slippery slope of negativity. I find that every day I have to tell myself to be careful of what I am saying and think of the long-term effects. The whole “think before you speak” thing should be at the forefront of all of our parenting minds.

Children’s egos can be fragile and almost all children want to please their parents. While it is important to set expectations, acknowledging their achieving them is more important. I am far more likely to complain about a bad grade than praise for a good grade. I am sure that is detrimental to them improving their marks. After all, it is human nature to repeat behaviors we that are rewarded. When we reinforce good behavior, typically more of the same behavior follows.

I remind myself that my children are just children. An eight year old cannot make his bed the same way and adult can. A five year old will not set the table the right way. It is important to praise them for their efforts. I try to give suggestions before they begin a task to improve the things they did wrong the last time. I will say, can you put your clothes away and make sure your short sleeve shirts are on one shelf and long sleeve on another. It is not as devastating to their pride as going in after the clothes are put away and saying: “Why didn’t you sort your shirts” in our mean Mommy tone.    

This is a constant struggle for me. The good news is, every day we can start over and improve on what happened yesterday. Children are very forgiving in their eagerness to please and will still seek the positive reinforcement. So today, before I yell or throw my own fit about shoes being by the back door instead of in the bins, I am going to take a deep breath and remind myself that they are kids, and it is just shoes by the back door.


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