”I keep telling myself to stop criticizing! And I know I’ll manage to do that!” Lisa writes to us. Lisa is the mother of a boy that she describes as “messy, both when it comes to his room and his homework! He’s an extraordinary child and could be so much more if he were more organized!”
Stopping all criticisms was the first step she took in order to obtain the change she wanted from her child – which was for him to become a bit more organized.
Dear Lisa, in this article I have decided to help both you and all the other parents who want to eliminate criticism from their relationship with their children. I myself was criticized as a child by my mother for everything she considered a mistake or a failure on my part, and I found it unfair most of the times.
We all know the theory: criticizing is a not a constructive way to solve problems. But many parents still criticize their children. And maybe you’re wondering how you got there. So, first of all, let’s talk about criticism for a bit.
- the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing: the act of criticizing someone or something
- a remark or comment that expresses disapproval of someone or something
- the activity of making careful judgments about the good and bad qualities of books, movies, etc.
The purpose of criticism is to correct mistakes. And this is particularly why so many parents criticize their children: because they want them to grow into healthy, responsible, successful adults, by correcting their present mistakes. It’s a perfectly justifiable reason and all you’ve done so far as a parent was to do what you thought was right for you and your child, with the knowledge you had.
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But let’s see what happens when you criticize your child. Here are some of the negative effects of criticism:
1. Being criticized by a parent makes a child suffer, mostly because it comes from someone so close. If not even his parent can support him, than who will? Our loved ones’ critiques are harder to endure, because we share such a strong emotional bond to them.
2 Constantly putting down your child weakens the emotional bond between the two of you. The child’s natural tendency in the face of constant judgment will be to protect himself from suffering. He will stop being open to his parents and shut down emotionally. He will prefer to distance himself, to stop counting on you in order to avoid suffering whenever he hears your comments.
3. Moreover, when a child is criticized and judged for his mistakes, he will have the tendency to hide them, also in order to avoid suffering. He will do whatever it takes to hide them from you, so that you won’t put him down for them. But when lies come out, things get even more complicated and suddenly you have a lot more other problems to solve.
4. When judgments become common, and when they’re accompanied by labels, then kids starts seeing them as an attack. Kids (along with many adults as well) find it hard to distinguish between being criticized as people and a criticism of their behavior. And when they will feel threatened, they will protect themselves. Their attention won’t be focused on correcting the mistake (which is what you were trying to do), but on winning the fight with you. Without realizing it, you have put him in a situation where he needs to justify himself and convince you that he, in fact, did the right thing. And the lesson that the mistake might have taught him will be gone.
5. When your child is frequently criticized, he will form a bad self-image and won’t have any self-confidence in the long run.
6. When a child is frequently judged for what his parents see as mistakes, he will stop being proactive, for fear of making even more mistakes. He will keep to his comfort zone and will be afraid of change.
7. Criticism demotivates. And, after a series of such experiences, your child will end up believing that regardless of what he does he will still be criticized. And then he won’t have any motivation to do what his parents ask of him.
8. In spite of the suffering that he felt when he was growing up, your child, as adult, will mostly make use of this particular tool with his own children, because it’s what he learnt best at home. He will learn to criticize in order to feel strong in any relationships, including in his relationship with you, whenever he’ll get a chance.
But taking into account the negative effects of criticism and the fact that we really want our child to correct a particular behavior, what other solutions are there?