Accepting Criticism: How to Teach a Child to React and Respond to Negative Comments

mother and daughter

At some point, your child will encounter criticism. It is unavoidable and, often, it will help them grow personally or professionally. However, not a lot of adults nowadays know how to react and accept criticism when it is thrown at them.

Criticism is hard to take, but it is necessary. A person who understands that criticism is not an attack but an opportunity to improve gets to see things from a new perspective. This mindset strengthens their character, pushes them to do better, and enables them to reach success.

The challenge, however, is how to teach a person how to properly handle criticism, whether it is meant to be constructive or given in bad faith.

Experience is the Best Teacher

Shielding a child from criticism will only deprive them of experience from which they can glean necessary life lessons. So, instead of being always on guard, parents should allow their child to explore their interests, even if it leads them toward a path where they will receive some form of criticism.

People benefit from music classes. When a child enrolls in private piano lessons, they are in a position where they will encounter constructive criticism. Because the classroom is a safe space and the feedback is meant to help them become better players, the child stops associating criticism with humiliation or an attack of their capabilities.

Moreover, learning how to play a musical instrument and performing in front of a crowd can boost confidence. Criticism hurts especially when a person at the receiving end has low self-esteem. A negative comment can destroy already fragile self-esteem.

A person who is confident, therefore, will be more receptive to criticism.

father explaining to his son

Criticize the Behavior, Not the Person

Children should be able to recognize when they are being given constructive criticism, and it should start at home.

Parents should criticize their children. Coddling them will only make them more sensitive to criticism when they grow up, preventing them from learning and improving.

However, when dishing criticism, parents should be kind, not angry or sarcastic. Most importantly, point out the action that was out of line and explain why they did a bad thing. There is a huge difference between calling out a child for doing something they should not be doing and telling them that they are a “bad child.” The latter could have a lasting negative impact. It can lead to more unwanted behaviors or psychological issues like anxiety and depression later on.

Use a neutral voice when criticizing your child. Moreover, saying “I” instead of “you” might also help get the message across without the child feeling antagonized. For example, when you want your child to focus on schoolwork instead of playing video games every day, you can say “I think you should create a schedule so you can finish your schoolwork early and have time to play video games.”

Communicate that Their Feelings are Valid

Not all criticism will be constructive. At some point, out of anger or insecurity, someone will say something mean to your child that may or may not be true.

It is important not to dismiss negative feelings. After hearing about the remark, your child might feel hurt or embarrassed by it. And, that is okay. Parents should encourage children to recognize and accept, not bottle up, those emotions no matter how unpleasant they may be.

It is a good opportunity to talk about how words can negatively impact a person. It will prevent them from, out of anger or insecurity, making their own mean retort. Explaining to them that reacting badly to criticism will only cause them to hurt someone else, leaving both people upset.

Teach your child coping methods when they feel overwhelmed with emotions during a tense scenario. Moreover, tell them how they can respond without hurting the other person in the future. For example, the child can say that the negative comment hurt their feelings. Doing so might make the other person realize that their words can have a negative impact and apologize. The child can also point out that the negative comment is the person’s opinion.

Criticism should not always be treated as bad. It is a step forward for people to improve and grow. Although sometimes, they hurt, people should be able to step back and reflect on their actions and behaviors to see where they went wrong and what they can change.

Learning how to accept criticism should begin during childhood. Children will encounter criticism throughout their lives. At a young age, they might receive negative comments from classmates and friends or even adults. When it happens, they should know how to react and respond appropriately.

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