One can liken raising a child to landing a person on the moon- seldom is “spaceship kid” on track 100% and thus requires constant course correction until touchdown. When a child is not behaving in a respectful way at home or school, it is important as a parent or teacher to offer corrective feedback. Here are some suggestions for giving corrective feedback, so that the message is transmitted effectively and harmoniously.
Start respectfully: Just like a doctor, we must first “do no harm.” If your corrective feedback looks a lot like wringing your child’s neck – stop! As a role model in your child’s life, it is important that you deliver your feedback from a respectful place. Listening to others about our errors and mistakes as an adult is hard enough. Imagine what it feels like from a child’s perspective. While it is perfectly okay to display your emotion, keep it in check! It can be counter productive to be verbally or physically aggressive. The intention is to help your child change a behavior, not to feel attacked or overwhelmed.
Keep focused on the behavior: Kids need to know that you love and care about them unconditionally. This helps them feel more secure. Focus first on the individual child’s behavior. This means keeping your feelings about the child separate from your disapproval of their behavior. This separation will allow three things to occur:
- Disapproving of the behavior
- Affirming their self worth.
- Focusing them on positive behaviors you do want.
An example would be: “Johnny, this isn’t like you. Usually, you are so honest with me. Lying is not acceptable; it can be dangerous and hurtful. Do you understand? When you are honest and tell the truth, you make me proud!”
Privacy helps” There is an old martial arts teaching maxim: “praise in public, reprimand in private.” It is far more effective to pull a child to the side and give corrective feedback in private than to “air his or her dirty laundry” in front of everyone. This helps maintain their self-esteem and reinforces a sense of trust. The quicker your children get feedback, typically, the better and more open they become. Just remember that it is not okay to correct if you are angry or upset. It is better to be composed and ready to listen. This is hard to do if the behavior seemed counter to your authority. Another useful maxim for parents and teachers to keep in mind is “this too shall pass.”
Learning to give feedback and help your child to correct their behavior can be time consuming. Sometimes a child will listen and be ready for change, other times not so much. Stick with it. There may be times when you are flustered and scream and shout; apologize when appropriate but stick with it. Everyone wins when they start respectfully, keep focused on behavior and give feedback in private. Being a role model is no easy task, but if you stick with it and practice, the child or children under your watch will flourish. This is the greatest reward a parent or educator can have: to see their child or student grow and succeed!
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