Lately, I’ve been watching shows about the great estates in England and their servants. I stared fascinated as the servants actually took a ruler and measured everything on a dinner table to make sure each item was placed in the exact proper place.
Imagine if one of the servants were new and neglected to use the ruler for an important dinner party. What would the owner of the estate say to the servant? More importantly, what would he say to make sure the table was set perfectly the next time?
In parenting, there is feedback or correction that helps our kids learn and grow and there is another kind that confuses, frustrates and eventually discourages them. What are those differences?
- Helpful feedback is extremely specific and concrete. Children, especially young children, are concrete thinkers. Telling them they need a better attitude or to do something better, means very little to them. If, however, you explain that the fork goes to the left of the plate or that they shouldn’t complain when you ask them to do something, they are more likely to comply. When you give your child feedback, try to hear it from their perspective, but pretend like you are speaking a language they don’t fully understand yet. Do they actually know what those words mean to you and how to do the things you are asking them to do?
- Helpful feedback often involves demonstrations. Sometimes showing works better than telling. Show your kids how you want them to make their beds or put away their clothes. Have them practice in front of you, giving them helpful reminders as needed.
- Helpful feedback is developmentally appropriate. A table set by a four year old will look different from a table set by a fourteen year old. You need to consider your child’s age and abilities when giving feedback. Yes, you want to move your children closer to the ultimate goal with your feedback, but don’t push them to do things they aren’t able to do yet or let them off the hook for things they can easily master. It may take some trial and error, but you will eventually get a feel for the right balance of encouraging growth without overwhelming them.
- Helpful feedback takes into account a child’s personality. Some kids crumble before the first word of feedback, while others need to hear it given in a firm tone before they will even consider paying attention. Being too harsh or too wish washy with the wrong child and your attempts at feedback will back fire.
- Helpful feedback looks for the root of ongoing issues. As Christian parents, we need to be extremely aware of potential heart issues in our kids. Are you constantly having to give the same child the same feedback because the child isn’t understanding or able to do what is asked or because he or she is developing a rebellious heart? Missing the development of a rebellious heart can lead to heartbreak for everyone in the future. Assuming a child has a rebellious heart when he or she is actually just confused, can do damage to your relationship over time. It’s vital to take the time to explore the root cause with your child before jumping to conclusions and then address that core issue appropriately.
- Helpful feedback comes from a place of love and concern. Yes, you can openly dislike your children and still teach them how to make a bed properly, but that’s not the ultimate goal of Christian parenting. Christian parents need a close, loving relationship with their kids so they can continue to be an influence, helping their kids grow to be mighty men and women of God. When your kids know without a doubt you love them and have their best interest at heart, they will accept your feedback more willingly and use it to learn and grow.
The next time you give your kids feedback and don’t get the desired results, carefully examine what you said. Structuring your feedback with the tips above in mind, might get you the results you want.