When unwanted behaviors strike, it's a parent's job to intervene.

Ways to Give Constructive Criticism to Kids

by A.J. Ryan

When unwanted behaviors strike, it's a parent's job to intervene. Every child acts out from time to time. It is important that Mom or Dad has the tools to turn these behaviors around and make the negative actions into a positive learning experience. Effective use of constructive criticism is extremely valuable in raising a well-adjusted, responsible child.

1. Accentuate the Positive

Try to find some positive in your child's actions. It is much easier for your child to accept your comments when they do not seem harsh. This can lead you into a question that makes the child reflect. Choose words like, "I like how you were sharing your crayons with your sister, but what happened to make you angry and start yelling at her?" Allow her to voice her frustrations, then explain calmly to her how to better handle the situation the next time around.

2. Offer Help

Sometimes, your child doesn't know he hasn't met your expectations until you let him know. Do so in a manner not meant to hurt his feelings, but to point out what he did wrong. Offer assistance and helpful guidance instead of just pointing out his shortcomings. Effective language includes comments such as, "Did you know that you hurt your friend's feelings when you said you didn't want to play in the sandbox with him? How could you have kindly told him you wanted to do something else?" Help steer him to the correct solution.

3. Ownership of Behaviors

Do not make excuses for your child. Be clear that her behavior is not acceptable to you, and help her to determine a better course of action. It is critical to follow up by having her apologize to whomever she has wronged, and try to set the situation straight. Even the youngest children can say they are sorry for their poor behavior. This will help her take ownership of her wrongdoing, and help her make better choices in the future.

4. Be Timely

Children have short memories. It is important that you attempt to correct unwanted behaviors as "in the moment" as possible. If you can intervene and correct the negative behaviors as soon as possible, the child remembers the details of the situation and the emotions he feels that caused the inappropriate actions. Intervening early is far more powerful than sitting down later and asking him to recall the episode.

About the Author

A.J. Ryan is an elementary school teacher and graduate-level college instructor. She holds a professional teaching certification in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Science in business administration.

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