Monday, May 12, 2008

Criticism vs. praise

In general, I think parents today are very strong on praise. "Good job!" "Nice catch!" "Great hit!" are all phrases given out liberally during my son's recent Little League game. At school -- at least when I'm around -- I hear lots of positive comments given out to the kids at almost every turn. Now, I'm not there when there are daily problems in the classroom, and I'm sure there are many. But overall, school seems like a mostly positive place.

But I was taken aback a bit this weekend when my son's violin teacher came over for a make-up lesson. She actually came down harder on my son than I expected. His recital is coming up, and she told him in no uncertain terms that he should be in a better place with his piece than he is, and that he needs to spend more time practicing so he will sound good at the recital. I was pretty surprised at her harshness. She didn't pull any punches. She told him exactly how she felt, and it wasn't great.

Later on, I asked my son about the conversation. He said that he didn't mind her comments, and that it was better for her to tell him what he was doing wrong than to pretend that everything was alright. He didn't mind the criticism, he told me.

I was frankly surprised.

I think we, as parents, assume that our kids want our praise, and can't handle criticism. We fear it will squelch them. We worry about the way our parents criticized us, and we try to protect our children from that type of criticism. But maybe we are trying TOO hard. Maybe our kids WANT some honest criticism every now and then. This whole incident has definitely given me pause. I need to re-think the way I administer praise and criticism. Maybe a little well-placed criticism is just as necessary as a hundred "good jobs."


nachtwache said...

I think you've realized something very important and it's awesome your son took it so well and told you so, he sounds like a well balanced young person.
There have been some studies about todays young people's self confidence in America and it was found they have too much self confidence and an unrealistic belief in their abilities. Just watch American Idol applicants, some really have no clue that they sound awful.
You have a wise son!

Anonymous said...

I think it's definitely possible to praise too much, though having been on the end of both no praise and overly harsh criticism, all I can add is that it's a balance-- and that either should be something the child learns from, never superfluous.

I so enjoy your short, to the point thoughtfulness.