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7 Ways to make constructive criticism more constructive

Caroline Duda is a Senior Marketing Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized experiences to accelerate academic achievement.

As your student moves through her schooling, you may approach an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position; you may find yourself providing your child with constructive criticism. This can be incredibly difficult, as you must simultaneously encourage your student, protect her feelings and press her to stretch past her limitations and succeed, even when she believes she cannot. Here are seven tips to help you do this effectively and positively.

1. Offer constructive criticism sparingly

Constructive criticism works best when it is an infrequent occurrence. If you continually critique your student's academic performance or her demeanor in the classroom, she may soon wish to just ignore your criticisms. Pick your moments carefully (i.e. for maximum impact), and always balance your critiques with positive feedback.

2. Begin with a compliment

Before you share your criticisms with your child, explain how or where she succeeded. Though you certainly mean well with your critiques, discussing negatives alone can lead to decreased self-confidence. Highlighting your student's strengths, on the other hand, can show her that she has the skills she needs to address her weaknesses.

3. Be specific

If your child forgot to proofread her admissions essay, refrain from stating, "Reread this." Instead, try advice like, "I noticed several grammatical errors in your body paragraphs. Can you double-check your commas for me?" The more specific you are, the easier it is for your student to act upon your advice. This is especially true for younger children.

4. Limit the scope of your constructive criticism

Human beings struggle to recall more than a handful of items at any one time. When you discuss your student's behavior or work with her, touch upon no more than three criticisms in a single session. Once she corrects these (and she will be better able to do so with less to focus on), you can raise your other concerns.

5. Be objective

Every parent wishes to see her child excel, both in school and outside of it. When your student continually errs in the same way or consistently displays negative mannerisms in the classroom, it is all too easy to become angry. However, anger undermines the idea of constructive criticism. Remain calm and objective when you speak with your child about how to improve.

6. Encourage your student to participate

Participation, in this instance, refers to both listening and talking. Encourage your child to critique her academic performance and behavior with you. She may be able to connect your criticisms to her lessons, as well as shed additional light on her actions. She may even notice errors that you do not!

7. Follow up

Once you offer your critiques, your role does not end. Instead, you must demonstrate your commitment to your student by following up. Ask to see her revised admissions essay. Inquire about how her day at school went. Constructive criticism is an ongoing process, whether your child requires one week or 10, remain vigilant and you will likely see results soon.

Good luck!

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr
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