parent by design:

day 19: how to criticise

"Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots."

- Frank A. Clark


Criticism is a useful way to let your child know when they have done something wrong or they need to correct course. However, if done incorrectly it can make your child feel bad about themselves and it can help to create a false belief about themselves.

For example, let's imagine your child does something stupid.

You say "You are stupid." vs "That was a stupid thing to do."

It might not look like much of a difference, but the psychological effect can be huge.

criticise at the appropriate level

As you can see from the image below, 'you ARE stupid' is an identity level criticism, whereas 'that was a stupid thing to so' is a behavioural level criticism.

This is the level you want to be criticising at, you need to separate identity from behaviour.

By criticising at the identity level, your child will take that to mean that's who they are, even if only subconsciously. 

Continued criticism at this level can mean that your child adopts this identity and then this shapes their beliefs about who they are, their thoughts, emotions, their behaviour and their results.

In short, not good!

what to do instead

You have a choice here:

  • Bring it back to character strengths; ask your child which character strength(s) they could use to obtain a better outcome. 
  • Look at the ICEBERG and see what the underlying cause of the behaviour is, what motivated them to behave in the way that they did? Is it a belief/ emotional/ resource issue? How can you help your child to develop these so as to prevent this behaviour in the future?

If you use these incidents in a positive and constructive way then you will help your child to build a positive self-identity and they will grow up to have self-compassion- which is the subject of tomorrow's module.