The Sneaky Side of Criticism

We know the overall effects of being criticized leads to lower self-esteem and a tendency to self-doubt. Anyone who has been criticized as a child can attest to its pervasiveness and the amount of work it takes to change the internal dialogue that has formed as a result.

The sneaky side of criticism is that it often comes with good intention. As parents, we can struggle with thinking, “If I don’t point out what he/she is doing wrong, how will they ever learn?” The good intention comes from worrying about their future and wanting our children to succeed in life. Hence, we can ‘come down hard’ on not so perfect marks, not completing a task correctly, expecting better results, their appearance, how they speak, etc., etc. We can also reach a point, especially with our teenagers, where we struggle against counter will with our words: “How could you do something so stupid?” “What is wrong with you?”

We may think that our criticism is constructive, but without open dialogue and a gentle approach, we move onto the slippery slope of criticism that is not effective. Criticism that is not constructive will always create injury. How quickly words will move into an internalization of self – and all well-intentioned learning is lost.

We are much better served to slow the process down and to have open dialogue with our children which includes active listening on our part. It is not about necessarily agreeing or giving in, but rather to work towards a solution together. It is about making room to make sure praise is also a part of the equation, and apologizing if things got carried away and you said something you regret. It is about creating for our children a strong foundation for the future, one that leads less with judgement and more with love. 🙂

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