Constructive Feedback as Comforting Communication

As a new nurse, I worked with a co-worker who intimidated me and I found it challenging to spend a 12 hour shift with this individual. I would see our names teamed up on the board and felt a sense of dread. However, during a staff meeting where I learned how to give and receive constructive feedback, it changed how I communicated with this nurse and others. I not only came to respect and admire this nurse, but considered her a friend. 

I have used the communication strategies I learned as a nurse when talking to my children and have experienced great results. Over the years, I have discovered that giving and receiving constructive feedback can improve parent-child relationships. 

What is constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is a communication technique used to provide guidance and suggestions to someone in a manner that that encourages improvement instead criticism or fault-finding.

What are the differences between constructive feedback and criticism?

Remember that the goal of feedback is to help the person grow and improve, while criticism tends to tear them down and make them feel bad.

How can giving and receiving feedback improve the parent child relationship?

  • Providing constructive feedback supports your children when they are struggling with something.
  • Providing constructive feedback boosts children’s self-esteem when their strengths are recognized.
  • Accepting constructive feedback from your kids lets them know that their feelings and opinions matter.
  • Accepting constructive feedback helps you to be a better parent.

As a parent, giving feedback to your child is an important part of their growth and development. However, it’s important to provide constructive feedback that will help them improve rather than simply criticizing them.

Tips to help you provide effective and constructive feedback to your kids:

  1. Be timely: Give feedback in the moment. Don’t wait for things to build up or for mistakes to repeat themselves.
  2. Be specific: Instead of saying “you’re always so messy,” give specific examples such as “today I noticed that the milk and cereal were left out in the kitchen, and the dishes were left everywhere on the counter.”
    • Explain your “why”: Explain the usefulness of the feedback. For example, “We’re trying to keep the house cleaner. If the milk is left out for too long, it won’t be good to drink anymore.”
  3. Provide doable solutions: Offer practical solutions to the problem. For example, “Before you head to school, do a quick check to make sure things are put away.”
  4. Provide Support: Let your child know that you’re there to help and support them. For example, “If I see things left out in the kitchen, I’ll remind you to put things away.”
  5. Follow up: After providing feedback, check in with your child to see how they’re doing. For example, “Remember when we talked about cleaning up breakfast last week? I wanted to let you know I’ve noticed what a great job you’ve done remembering. I really appreciate the efforts you’ve made.”

By providing quality constructive feedback, you’ll help your child feel valued and respected. It will also help them learn personal responsibility and how working on weaknesses can be satisfying.

As a parent, giving feedback to your child is an important part of their growth and development. However, it’s important to provide constructive feedback that will help them improve rather than simply criticizing them.

Mother chats with her daughter. Giving and receiving constructive feedback from your kids can help you strengthen your relationship.

Why should we be willing to receive constructive feedback from our children?

Receiving constructive feedback from your children can be challenging. We may think that we are the boss and don’t need advice from our kids. However, since we are always providing feedback to them, it is only fair to allow them to do the same. To address this, we can try switching places and allow our kids to provide constructive feedback on our parenting. This approach can be eye-opening and help us better meet our children’s needs.

Things To Remember When Receiving Constructive Feedback

  1. Be a Safe Place

It’s important to be a safe and non-judgmental space for your child when they are providing feedback. Avoid reacting negatively or defensively to their comments, as this can make them hesitant to share their thoughts in the future.

  1. Set Boundaries

Before starting the conversation, make it clear that you’re looking for constructive feedback rather than criticism. Explain that some things, such as school or basic hygiene, are non-negotiable.

  1. Minimize Distractions

Give your child your full attention by putting away all screens and minimizing other distractions. This will show them that you are taking the conversation seriously.

  1. Listen with Intent

Listen carefully to what your child is saying and try to understand their perspective. Paraphrase their comments to show that you are engaged in the conversation.

  1. Approach with Gratitude

Let your child know that you appreciate their honesty and that their feelings and opinions matter to you. Show gratitude for their willingness to provide feedback.

  1. Model Constructive Feedback

When receiving feedback, model how to respond constructively rather than defensively. This will set an example for your child and encourage them to provide feedback in a healthy and productive manner.

Common Pitfalls when giving children constructive feedback

  1. Being judgmental: When giving feedback, it’s important to focus on the behavior, not the person. Avoid using accusatory language or making personal attacks.
  2. Giving too much feedback at once: Overwhelming your child with too much feedback can be counterproductive. Instead, focus on the most important points.
  3. Failing to consider your child’s perspective: Feedback can be more effective when it is given in a way that takes the child’s perspective into account. Consider thier experience and feelings before giving feedback.
  4. Not being specific enough: Vague feedback can be frustrating and unhelpful. Be as specific as possible when giving feedback to your kids.
  5. Failing to acknowledge strengths: While it’s important to address areas for improvement, it’s also important to acknowledge and reinforce your child’s strengths.
  6. Giving feedback in public: Giving feedback in front of others can be embarrassing and counterproductive. Whenever possible, give feedback in a private setting to avoid causing unnecessary discomfort or conflict.
  7. Failing to follow up: Providing feedback is only the first step. Follow up with the recipient to see how they are progressing and offer additional support or guidance if necessary.
A mother listens to her son.

How to Accept Constructive Feedback from Your Children

When it comes to receiving feedback from our children, it can be tough to know how to approach it. Although it may feel awkward at first, it is worth the effort. The first thing I do is  pick a convenient time when we can have an unhurried conversation. Then, I start by acknowledging my child’s hard work and progress in different areas of their lives. I remind them that I’m also working hard and want to be the best parent I can be. Finally, I ask them if there’s anything I can do to improve as their parent.

How to handle negative feedback

Receiving negative feedback can be challenging and sometimes even painful. As a parent, you want to do your best for your children, so it can be hard to hear when you fall short of expectations. Despite this, negative feedback can also be a valuable tool for growth and improvement. Here are some strategies for handling negative feedback:

  1. Take time to process the feedback before responding: When you receive negative feedback, it’s natural to feel defensive or upset. However, it’s important to take a step back and process the feedback before responding. This can help you avoid saying something you might regret later. Take some time to reflect on what was said and why it was said.
  2. Ask clarifying questions to better understand the feedback: If you’re not sure what the feedback means, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. For example, you might ask, “Can you give me an example of what you mean?” or “What specifically did I do wrong?”.
  3. Focus on solutions rather than dwelling on the negative: It’s easy to get caught up in the negative feedback and focus on what you did wrong. However, it’s more productive to focus on solutions and how you can improve.
  4. Practice self-compassion: Receiving negative feedback can be hard on your self-esteem. It’s important to practice self-compassion and remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Don’t let negative feedback define your worth as a parent.
  5. Seek support: It’s okay to ask for help or support when dealing with negative feedback. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or professional to get perspective and guidance on how to handle the feedback. Sometimes, an outside perspective can help you see the situation in a new light.

It can feel vulnerable to receive feedback from your child. Some of their responses can be downright  uncomfortable. Here is some of the feedback my children have given me:

  • “I’d like you to be on your phone less.”
  • “I want to choose different after-school activities.”
  • “I wish we could spend more one-on-one time together.”
  • “I’d like to go on a vacation.”

Instead of feeling guilty or upset that we aren’t perfect parents, it’s important to take our kids feedback to heart. It shows our children that we care and that we’re willing to listen to their needs. It also sets a good example of how to accept feedback without getting defensive or upset.

Remember, feedback is an opportunity to grow and learn, both for our children and for us as parents. By being open to receiving constructive feedback from our kids, we can create a more positive and supportive family environment.

Things To Avoid When Receiving Constructive Feedback

  • Don’t expect them to say, “You’re great, I don’t have any feedback.”
  • Don’t argue with your child when receiving feedback.
  • Don’t interrupt your child.
  • Don’t forget to follow through.
  • If there is something you promised to work on, do the work! Don’t make empty promises to your child.

What to do after you’ve received feedback

Make a plan

Figure out what actions you are going to take on the feedback you received. Tell your child about what you are going to do.

Follow through

Work on the things you said you’d try and improve. If it’s trying not to yell, make the effort to get your anger under control.

Check in again

Have another conversation with your child and ask them how they feel things are going. 

Final Thoughts

As you and your child are honest each other and work together, you’ll both discover new ways to grow and support one another. Avoiding the temptation in criticize will improve your communication with your children. Providing and receiving constructive feedback will not only help your relationship function better, but you will help you thrive!

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