Help My Child Accept Criticism and Learn from It

Help My Child Accept Criticism and Learn from It

It is a fact kids need to deal with at some point—accepting criticism. They will face criticism at school, in sports, with family, friends, and eventually in a job situation. If kids take criticism too personally, they will allow others to dictate their lives. Kids need to learn that you cannot control or change others; you can only control how you react to them. Kids, like adults, can react to criticism in the following ways: They can ignore it, be motivated by it, reply to it, or let it ruin their positive outlook. Help your child learn how to accept criticism and be motivated by it.  

Children need to learn how to deal with criticism in healthy, positive ways because it is nearly impossible to go through life and not face criticism in some fashion. As long as children speak, act, or strive to become better, they will need to deal with criticism from others.

Take it from me: “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”—Aristotle

  • Have my child search for reviews of an athlete, actor, singer, or writer.
    Many children admire celebrities. Use this admiration as a learning experience. Instruct your child to search for reviews about their favorite celebrity on the Internet, in the newspaper, or even on television. Have them highlight or point out less than flattering statements or criticism. Stress that everyone has to deal with criticism, no matter how popular or admired they are.

    Option: Have your child investigate further how the celebrity handles criticism (ignores, voices back, motivates) and decide if that approach would work in your child’s situation.


  • Discuss two or three differences between constructive criticism and destructive criticism with my child.
    People who care about us can offer constructive criticism with the intent of helping us improve or do something better. Destructive criticism is intended to degrade or destroy confidence. Jealous or insecure people deliver usually destructive criticism as an insult trying to hurt another person. Give several examples of both types of criticism and have your child identify each type of criticism.

    Tip: This can be done verbally while watching sitcoms, entertainment news, or sports reviews on television. If your TV has a pause and rewind feature, use it to repeat a criticism and ask your child if that criticism is constructive or destructive.


  • Allow my child to practice taking time to cool off when they receive criticism.
    One method of learning to handle criticism is to refrain from verbally defending yourself and taking time to walk away and cool off before reacting. It is human nature to want to respond or defend yourself when you are criticized, especially destructive criticism. Set up a code word between you and your child. The next time your child is dealt criticism by someone, look at your child and say the code word as a signal that they should walk away to cool off rather than respond or retaliate.
  • Be a role model by ignoring insults or criticisms and staying positive.
    Kids need examples to follow, especially in tough situations. The next time you are criticized, use it as an opportunity to teach your child by example. For instance, if someone in the family criticizes the dinner you made, instead of becoming angry or defensive, ignore the comment and find a positive response such as, "I like that this dinner only took me half the time," or "I do like to experiment trying new recipes to see which I like-it's fun." Continue to model how to keep a positive attitude when you have been criticized.
  • Have my child practice ignoring three criticisms.
    Now that your child has a model to follow, have them practice ignoring their next three criticisms. If necessary, combine this step with
    Step 3 and use the code word to remind your child they should ignore the criticism if you see emotions rising. Reinforce the idea that while many people are quick to criticize, your child should learn from the criticism of those they respect.
  • Let my child choose two or three people they respect to accept constructive criticism from.
    One of the lessons your child needs to learn in order to handle criticism is to consider the source. Help your child distinguish between ignoring a criticism from an antagonist or foe and accepting criticism from someone they respect. Guide your child's selection of two or three people they respect who might give constructive criticism to help the child grow. These respected individuals may include a relative such as a grandparent, a close trusted friend, a teacher, or a coach of your child. In cases where constructive criticism is given, encourage your child to mull over the criticism and reflect on what unspoken advice the individual may have meant in their criticism.
  • Based on constructive criticism, guide my child in setting a goal to improve on an activity or behavior.
    After your child has reflected on the constructive criticism of a respected individual, have them set a goal to improve an activity or behavior. Remind your child that the criticism was meant to motivate them to become a better person by someone who knows they are capable of more.

    Remember: Let your child choose the activity or behavior to change that is important to them. Your child will be much more successful at using criticism as a motivator if they feel they are in control of making changes or improvements based on the criticism.


  • Record the activity or behavior my child is trying to improve so it can be reviewed.
    Sometimes the best way to acknowledge criticism is to see first-hand, through someone else's eyes. Sports players do this all the time. They review videotapes of their plays with their coach to see where mistakes were made or how they could do something better next time. If it is a behavior your child was criticized about, try to catch that behavior (temper, impatience, etc.) on camera. Often times, kids do not realize what they look like or how they come across unless they see it themselves.
  • Document any improvements from the constructive criticism.
    Keeping track of improvements based on criticism will validate that constructive criticism can be motivating and have positive outcomes. Point out or show your child videotaped evidence in which he/she used criticism to become better at something. Because children learn best from concrete experiences, document positive changes your child made based on criticism. This will serve as additional evidence that you can learn from criticism and use it to be the best you can be.