It’s one thing when we receive criticism, right? We have learned how to handle it on our own, for better or for worse. But what about when our kids are criticized?
Maybe a friend said something mean or a teacher offered feedback that was difficult for your child to take. Or maybe the criticism came from you and your child is struggling to accept it.
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Not all criticism is bad, but for kids (heck, even for some adults) it can be hard to process. It’s important to show our kids how to find the positive in every criticism, whether ill-intentioned or not.
We have to teach our children how to deal with criticism.
Not All Criticism Is Bad
Criticism has gotten a bad rap. Many people often correlate criticism with being critical, and being critical with being mean and rude. While that is sometimes true, there are times when it’s actually helpful to view things through a critical lense.
There are two different types of criticism. The first is the act of passing judgement or faultfinding. This is the type of criticism that we often think of and don’t like to receive.
It’s when someone points out a perceived flaw in your appearance or your character. It’s when people just nit-pick at things you have no control over or give harsh feedback that leaves you feeling inadequate.
The other type of criticism, also referred to as constructive criticism, is simply analyzing and evaluating something or someone. While this type of criticism can still sting at times, its intent is to help you grow and become better.
It’s not just a slam on you, but rather an observation of an area with room for growth. This type of criticism often comes with feedback and ideas for improvement.
When you’re able to look at yourself and the world around you from an analytical point of view, you can begin to see ways to make positive improvements rather than feeling defeated.
It’s important to be able to separate your emotions from any criticism you may receive. Of course this is usually easier said than done. We, as humans, tend to internalize every negative thing ever said to us, even if it wasn’t meant to hurt.
We have the uncanny ability to play things up in our mind until one off-hand remark somehow turns into this debilitating belief about ourselves.
Instead, we need to focus on how we can take those criticisms, whether intended for harm or for good, and sift out the gold in them that can help us become better people.
How To Help Your Child Deal With Criticism
It can be difficult to handle a hurtful word said to us, but it’s even harder to watch our children struggling with the feelings these criticisms can bring up. If I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s that people – especially other children – can be incredibly cruel.
I don’t think kids set out in their lives (most of the time) to hurt other people. It’s not like they wake up in the morning thinking, “How can I cause some emotional damage today?!”
No, instead I think it has a lot more to do with lack of social etiquette, not understanding just how powerful words can be, being brutally honest, and perhaps a whole host of other factors.
Most of the time, I don’t think kids mean to cause each other harm with their words. And even if they do, it’s most likely coming from a place of hurt within themselves that they don’t know how to express.
But helping our children understand this can be difficult. The best thing you can do is to just be present for them. Offer support and empathize. Remind them how special they are to you.
If and when they are open to it, help them brainstorm reasons why the criticism might have happened (was Emma having a bad day? Did something happen that made Liam upset?) And then brainstorm positive ways you (or your child) can respond in the future.
4 Tips On How To Deal With Criticism
It can be tough to receive critical assessments about ourselves, whether positive or negative. But here are four ways to help make those criticisms a little easier to bear!
Find the positive
In physics there is a law that says every action has an equal but opposite reaction. We can apply the same law to criticism!
When someone offers a criticism to you, it is usually only one side of the equation. It is the action, in our example.
So in order to help yourself process, think about what the equal but opposite reaction would be, the counter-truth that is also positive?
Here are some examples:
- Criticism: I am controlling and demanding. Counter-Truth: I care very deeply for the people I love.
- Criticism: I am a messy person. Counter-Truth: I am a creative person.
- Criticism: I am always late. Counter-Truth: I take my time and enjoy my surroundings.
- Criticism: My [insert physical trait] isn’t [right, good enough, pretty/handsome enough]. Counter-Truth: I resemble my family who have an amazing and unique history that I am a part of. I am unique and beautiful/handsome.
- Criticism: I am shy. Counter-Truth: I am cautious.
- Criticism: I am quiet. Counter-Truth: I am intuitive.
You get the idea. For every criticism you receive, sit down and think about what positive trait that criticism is masking.
Look for opportunities to grow
Sometimes the reason criticism hurts so much is because we know it’s true. Usually this is when we perceive a flaw in ourselves and our biggest fear, having someone else notice it, comes true.
But, short of genetic traits you have no control over, you can work on improving just about anything about yourself.
If someone offers the criticism (as they did to me) that you’re too controlling, it might be true. Although it is good to find and identify with the positive counter-truth of that (for me it’s that I care very deeply, as in my example above), it may also be beneficial to work on finding a healthier way to express that positive trait.
This can be true of many traits and characteristics. When you (or your child) receives a criticism, it’s important to stop and consider whether it has any truth to it and whether that truth is something that could be improved upon.
Some things don’t need to be changed. If someone tells you that you have a big nose, it may be true. But it’s not a flaw (though it may feel like one). There is nothing that needs to be done to change it. It’s just a unique characteristic that makes you, you!
But if someone tells you that you tend to be overly critical, for example, that may be something you would want to consider working on.
While it’s true that your critical mind may help you to notice and improve on things that others might miss, being overly critical can cause damage to your relationships and even to your own mental and emotional well-being.
Of course this is just one example. The point is, with every criticism, it’s important to evaluate whether or not it is an opportunity for growth.
Know your truths
One of the best ways to counter criticism is to simply know yourself and know what you believe about yourself. When you’re confident in who you are (and who you’re not), outside opinions will have a far less significant impact on your self-esteem and your life.
When you’re very attuned to all of your personality and characteristics, both good and bad, and you’re not afraid to face them head on, it will be far more difficult for someone else to hurt you by pointing out perceived flaws.
Either you will know their opinion is not the absolute truth (it’s just an opinion, which they are entitled to) or you will already be aware of any flaw they might point out. This will take all the power away from the criticizer and place that power back in your hands.
You get to decide what to do with the knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses.
Practice Positive Affirmations
The best way to build your self-esteem (or that of your child), is to make a list of all the things that are good about you. This can be physical traits, personality traits, things others have told you about yourself, or things you believe about yourself.
While it’s ok, and even good, to be humble, the point of this exercise is to find and acknowledge the good in yourself. After all, we were all created in God’s image and even God himself called us very good. It is possible to honor the goodness in ourselves with humility.
Here are some positive affirmations to get you started!
- You are beautifully created and unique. No one else looks just like you.
- You are a strong and capable person. You are able to do anything you set your mind to.
- You have unique and amazing gifts and abilities. There is no one else in the past, present, or future who can do exactly what you can do.
- You are loved. [By your friends, your family, God] (choose what works for your situation).
Take 10 or 15 minutes to sit and write down every positive thing about yourself you can think of. If it helps you, ask others to share what they love most about you.
If you have a child, help them make a list for themselves. The next time a criticism comes up, use this list to help you find your truth, find the positive counter-truth to the criticism and decide if there is opportunity for growth.
Learning how to deal with criticism from an early age is extremely beneficial for your child.
Helping them find the positive, look for opportunities to grow, know their own truth, and practice positive affirmations can help them manage any criticism that comes their way with dignity and grace.
And the best part is, we can learn right alongside them!