A huge part of parenting is giving our children feedback about their behavior. We want to encourage them when they are kind, responsible, and patient. We want to teach them to not be rude, mean, or whiny. We want to teach our children the difference between right and wrong, and help them grow up into incredible older children, teenagers, and eventually adults. How can we give feedback in a way that helps them continue growing?
1. Rebuke their behavior, not their personality.
There is a huge difference between “You are acting lazily” and “You are lazy.” Make sure your child knows you believe in them and think they are amazing people no matter what, but that their behavior is not amazing. Try to avoid anything that could be received as name-calling or a statement about their identity. For young children especially, whatever the parent says about them must be true, so if you say they are irresponsible they will believe that is part of who they are. Your children need to know they are not defined by their mistakes, and you are the best person to teach them that!
2. Explain what a better behavior could be
When you tell your child something they did or said was not okay, make sure you give them alternatives that would be. Don’t just say “You are being so impatient.” There is a good chance they will not even be sure what you are talking about! Give specifics, such as “You interrupting me and trying to rush me is unkind, and it showed you are being impatient. Next time, could you please wait patiently or ask me for something to play with in the meantime?” Make sure your child knows how to make things right and do better next time.
3. Reinforce their identity
If your child views themselves as a gentle person that just made a mistake, it will be much easier for them to improve than if they think of themselves as angry people. Make sure you point out positive traits and remind them who they are. Remind them of their core identity as a child of God, as well as who they are as your child. Make sure they know what God thinks about who they are, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Highlight the passions and strengths God gave them, and remind them who He made them to be.
With these easy tips, you can give your child growth-centered feedback that will help them learn from mistakes, and move forward to make better choices!