How to Give Kids Feedback for Improvement

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At times when we do not want our kids to talk back at us or argue, we always overlook their wrongdoings. As parents, we need to be part coaches, teachers, and counselors so that kids learn how to behave well, and develop healthy attitudes toward learning and know-how to get the best out of themselves. Feedback is one of the most effective tools we have to achieve this. Give it poorly and it will at best be ignored and at worst, destroy relationships and damage self-worth. If you provide feedback effectively, you’ll see improvement in behavior, attitudes, and learning, even among feedback-resistant teens.

Here’s how to deliver feedback properly.

Make it Specific

It’s absolutely essential to give feedback about one behavior, skill, or attitude at a time if you want improvement. The feedback needs to be specific rather generalized so that a child or teen knows exactly how to do better. It also needs to be delivered in a non-judgmental way.

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Make it Descriptive

That’s not the way to behave inside” doesn’t help much. “Use your quiet voice when you play inside the house” gives a child an idea of how to behave. Use phrases and terms that have real meaning for kids rather than vague, non-descriptive language such as ‘be a good girl, so kids not only know what’s expected but they understand how to meet your expectations.

Make it Timely

Providing feedback to a toddler half an hour after they’ve thrown a tantrum in public will ensure there’s no impact. Feedback needs to be fairly immediate for young children and if possible, provided before an event or activity. Choose the time and place to provide feedback to older children, remembering that angry tweens and teens generally don’t listen.

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Do not Give Always

As much as you’d always applaud your kids when they perform well, it shouldn’t be always. It’s vital that children develop their own internal sense of validation and honest self-assessment because as they grow up and face hardship, they need to be able to look to themselves for strength and approval. If they can’t, they will be much more vulnerable to superficial external approval that comes their way in the form of peer pressure, bullying, and the usual social jostling.

Feedback is a wonderful parenting tool that requires attention to detail, sensitivity, and a willingness to respect the dignity of the child or young person who is receiving it. It’s also most effective when given sparingly, rather than like a nervous tic, which keeps kids anchored to you for approval.

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