Teaching Children How to Respond to Criticism
TEACHING CHILDREN HOW TO DEAL WITH CRITICISM
CORNING, N.Y., Sept. 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- You notice your five year old is not making his "B" correctly. "That's not quite right," you say. "Here, watch me."
As you begin to demonstrate, your child becomes defensive, crumbles up the paper, and shouts, "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you."
"How dare you speak that way to me!" you respond. And the conflict escalates from here.
A parent is often confronted with what William James liked to call the "balky will." Certain children, if they do not succeed immediately in doing something just right and are then criticized, flare up in anger and refuse to cooperate. Such children are oftentimes treated as sinful and are punished; or else the parent pits his or her will against the child's will.
Some have argued that children should be forced to do as they are told, even if one has to whip them ten times running. "Break its will, in order that his soul may live!" exclaimed John Wesley , an early twentieth century writer. But William James disagreed. "Such will breaking is always a scene with a great deal of nervous wear and tear on both sides, a bad state of feeling left behind it, and the victory not always with the would-be will breaker."
When a situation of this kind occurs, and the child is all tense and excited, James believed that it is best to drop the subject for awhile. Direct the child's mind to something else, and then, a little later on, bring it up again. As likely as not, the child will go over it now without any difficulty.
"It is in no other way that we overcome balkiness in a horse," said James. "We divert his attention, do something to his nose or ear, lead him around in a circle, and thus get him over a place where flogging would only have made him more invincible."
Of course, nothing works perfectly all the time, and this technique is no exception. I have found that I can greatly increase the success rate of James's approach by playing a game with children called "Criticism." It can be played during car rides, walks in the neighborhood, and waiting for the food to come in a restaurant. To teach your children the game you first have to explain what criticism is and then go over the first four levels of responding to criticism (see post titled RESPONDING TO CRITICISM: FOUR LEVELS OF MATURITY). It's important to tell the children first not to worry if they remember everything you are about to tell them because as you start to play, they will catch on before long.
Once you explain what criticism is and then go over the four levels of responding to criticism, you describe a situation in which one person criticizes another person and the other person responds in a particular manner. Then the child guesses what level the response was at. For example, I could say, "Charlie says to Sally, 'Those sneakers you're wearing are ugly.' Sally responds by saying, 'Oh yeah?! Well what do you know about sneakers? You're the worst dresser around here, you jerk!' What level is Sally at?"
After you discuss the child's answer, then role-play with the child the situation so that you provide the criticism and the child acts out a level four response. If the child fails to do this correctly, reverse the roles by having the child criticize you and you provide the level four response. Then let the child try to imitate your level four response.
I have found that kids, rather quickly, get a thorough understanding of the four levels by playing this game. Once they do, during a typical day I catch them responding to criticism. When I do, I ask them to rate the level of their response. I also try to catch them using a level four response, and then I play up like it's a big deal that such a young kid can be so mature.
One way to come up with fun descriptions of a character being criticized and another character responding, is to cut out newspaper comics that depict these kinds of scenarios.
Or you can go to the website GoComics.com and view many of the comics kids of all ages love, and print out ones that nicely illustrate someone being criticized.
In addition to James's approach of dropping the subject for awhile and my approach of playing the "Criticism" game, there is one more crucial point I shall make here about teaching children to handle criticism. Each time children are criticized, it brings up to them the fear of being unloved. They can handle only so much of this without shutting down or having a tantrum. As a rule of thumb, parents would be wise to say at least ten supportive comments for every one negative critical comment that they make. And if more than two or three negative criticisms have been made in a single day, perhaps it would be wise to put off the next one until the morrow.
Be patient then, and don't be afraid to drop a subject until a more suitable time. This will make you, not weaker, but a stronger parent. During fun times, teach your children how you expect them to act when criticized. Be on guard against too much negative criticism all at once. And above all, let your children know you love them.
Media Contact: Jeffrey Rubin Drjeffreyrubin.wordpress.com, 6079622681, firstname.lastname@example.org
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