Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Unsolicited criticism usually does little to change our immature thoughts and actions.
If we ask for the opinions of others about our ideas or behaviors, then their constructive criticism can be very useful to us.
Similarly, if others ask us if we would like their opinions about something we have said or done or anticipate saying or doing, and we say we would like to hear their opinion, then their constructive comments can again be very helpful.
Criticism, on the other hand, which is offered without having been requested or without our having acceded to hearing it, is more difficult to accept. It can still be helpful, especially if it is constructive, but we are less likely to be open to hearing it with a positive attitude.
Unsolicited, negative, or derogatory criticism only tends to contribute to a hardening of our attitudes and behaviors even if we are thinking or doing something which is unhelpful or harmful and would have benefitted from what was being said.
Children often need the benefit of adult experience and more mature understanding to help them positively shape their attitudes and behaviors. However, we adults have to remember that children also will be less open to hearing negative, derogatory criticism than they would be to hearing constructive comments which are offered at their request or with their permission.
Even with young children we can say, "Will you let me show you how I do that?"or "Will you let me explain how I think about that?"or "I'd like to tell you what I expect of you in this situation, would you please listen to what I have to say?"
While there may be times when we just have to correct a child without any preamble of this kind, we will get further with children, and adults also for that matter, if we use this approach as often as possible. By doing this we are not giving in to another's inappropriate behavior, but rather showing our respect for their autonomy and a desire for them to show us similar respect.
If nothing a child (or an adult who is close to us) does is ever quite good enough for us, and we find ourselves constantly on their backs with negative criticism, then we will probably contribute more to their frustration than to their ability to alter inappropriate behavior.