What makes constructive criticism different from just being criticised?

Constructive criticism is often confused with downright being criticised. And it can bite. Hard.

It hurts to think that your efforts or behaviours are perceived poorly by others and to be told so can sting as sharply as a slap in the face. And for teens who are often on the defensive, differentiating between critical comments designed to hurt and constructive criticism that’s intended to assist can be difficult.

In a nutshell, the difference between the two comes with intent. Constructive criticism is meant to be honest feedback that’s given with the purpose of being helpful.  It’s designed to assist you with reflection and shows areas where you can focus on for improvement. It’s delivered with your best interests at heart and is never meant to be taken as a personal attack.

Constructive criticism, no matter how gently it’s delivered to a teen can be confronting because teens are often self-conscious and on the defensive. If you can help your teen to acknowledge and accept constructive criticism firstly, and then secondly use it as a vehicle for growth and improvement they’ll certainly benefit.

Here are 5 tips you can share with your teen to help them receive feedback well:

Remind them to listen respectfully…   

Remind your teen of the need to fully hear to what’s being said. If they enter the conversation anticipating to be hurt and therefore interrupt defensively, it will limit the speaker’s capacity to fully explain their perspective on the matter.

Suggest they ask questions in order to fully understand…

It’s not always easy to for a teen to get the correct message when they’re hearing feedback they may not be happy receiving. Suggest they ask questions to clarify the issue/s and maybe ask the speaker for specific examples of what’s being referred to. The clearer understanding they have of the main issue/s at hand, the easier it is to move forward.

Encourage them to acknowledge and thank the speaker for their point of view…

This is not easy and I won’t pretend it is. But being gracious when accepting constructive criticism is a communication skill worth learning. Even if your teen does not agree with the feedback they’re being presented with, if they can accept the perspective of the speaker and thank them for being honest, it will go a very long way towards maintaining a positive relationship between the parties. Mind you, this does not mean your teen should be encouraged to accept responsibility or blame for anything beyond their control.

Encourage them to avoid becoming defensive…

When on the receiving end of constructive criticism, the natural response is often to try and justify the behaviour… and it’s likely this is what your teen will do until they learn the skills to respond differently. Many teens will probably need a lot of encouragement and support to develop a growth mindset where they can accept and value feedback as an opportunity for improvement. And to be honest, it’s something some adults struggle with too.

Help them devise an action plan for improvement…

So your teen has been given some critical feedback, they’ve taken it in their stride and reflected on the other person’s point of view. Awesome…. but what now?

You can help them harness any constructive criticism they’ve been given by working with them to devise an action plan in response to the issues raised.

PS. Have you checked out the CRASH PARENTING Workbook yet? It’s a simple, yet effective, 20 page PDF to support you parenting your teen with a focus on these crucial pillars – consistency, accountability, respect, safety and humour. Only a small investment that could make a very big difference!

Finding the positives in feedback probably won’t come easily to your teen, but with reflective practice – and your support – hopefully they’ll begin to learn that constructive criticism is a gift they can use for improvement.

PPS. Are you a member of our closed and confidential FACEBOOK GROUP? It’s a cool place to hang out where parents of teens – just like you – connect privately to support each other. You’ll love it!

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