Why constructive criticism is a must for parenting teens?

Why constructive criticism is a must for parenting teens?

Criticism comes in all shapes and forms, throughout life. Existence calls for mistakes, that is how we learn and grow better. It can be constructive or destructive, but how it is received determines its effect on us. Receiving criticism, the right way can be highly rewarding and is a must while parenting teens.

A parent has to guide their offspring through the intricacies of life. Constructive criticism refers to opinions based on performance, it includes positive and negative evaluations and its main aim is to contribute in the improvement of their performance.

Whether they know it or not, teens require their feedback. It is in their best interests to guide their behaviours and help them correct or improve upon existing ones. While it may seem ruthless or unsupportive to criticize your child, teaching them to take it in their stride and learn from it.

This will provide them with a “growth mindset” according to psychologist and author, Carol Dweck. People with such a mindset, compared to those with a “fixed mindset” believe that challenge as a positive part of life.

The importance of a parent’s criticism towards their teen is vital for the teen to receive it without becoming defensive or frustrated. Being able to do so and make changes, will allow them to grow and better themselves.

In the future as well, they are bound to be criticised in a class by the professor, at their job by their boss and for them to be able to take this in, they will need a lot of practice that only a parent can provide during developmental years.

Often parents are differed about providing helpful feedback that could be hurtful or sheltering their children from the pain of being confronted about their mistakes. But when we protect teens from criticism or focus on praising them only, we guide them towards maintaining a fixed mindset.

Constructive criticism is devoid of judgement and is expressed with the intention of helping the individual being criticized. It must be reasonable and logical and often can be a clear expression of observation.

Providing astute views and criticisms show that the performance or behaviour of the teen is being looked as a priority and that their well-being is important to the parent.

Being able to give constructive criticism is an art in itself, the following things need to be kept in mind when trying to instil these values in your teen:

1. Emotions: Teens have feelings, they can be sensitive about the effort they put into their behaviour/performance that is being judged by their parent.

It is at this stage to ensure that parents show their full support and believe in their teen to succeed. The teen should feel supported and loved just for trying, only then will they be open to advise about something they’re being rewarded for.

2. Educate: The goal of your criticism should be to help them in some way, the message should be relevant and helpful. If the message does not have advisory content, it will only convey your dissatisfaction and won’t be a positive experience for the teen.

In fact, it may crush their self-esteem if they are criticised in a destructive manner. The comment should aim to educate and not to punish or embarrass.


3. Past failures: Do not bring up mistakes they have made in the past and hold it against them, this is harsh and might make your teen feel trapped in a vicious cycle that they can’t escape.

This means there’s no room for labelling your teen or assigning the behaviour to them as a trait. For example, if your teen is routinely messy, instead of labelling them so, or nagging, try to remind them and let them choose to change their behaviour. Labels eventually stick, if the small efforts aren’t acknowledged and only the mistakes are under the spotlight.

4. Criticise the behaviour: The criticism should be aimed at the behaviour or performance and not the teen themselves. Make this clear from the beginning that it is not them that is the problem, it is the problem that is upsetting and has to be solved.

If your child realises that you are on their side, they will be much more open to your advice and criticism about the behaviour. Without this aspect, your relationship might be strained if they feel as though they are being targeted.


5. Application: While knowing that a mistake has been made is the first step, it is only constructive and beneficial, if the teen is open to correcting the mistake.

They should be given a chance to change their ways along with suggestions on how to do so. This allows them to feel responsible about their behaviour and put the folly behind them and move on.

The deliverance of the criticism is a key, it is a gift of insight that no one wants, so it is important to put a bow of sweetness on it. The hamburger or sandwich method of constructive criticism is, therefore, a good way to deliver criticism with love.

If the message is purely focusing on the wrongs, the teen is bound to feel frustrated or unappreciated. In that case, the feedback may be rejected because of their feelings, blocking their objectivity. To avoid that, constructive criticism between two slices of compliments may painlessly deliver the message.

Sometimes, however, it is best to delay the criticism when the teen may be defensive and may not listen to reason. It can also be the case where the teen knows about what went wrong on their behalf and feels bad about it.

There is no need for criticism at that point, as they are unlikely to repeat it and might be rebuking themselves. Supporting them and letting them know that there will be more chances to prove themselves is ideal at that point. As the parent, it is your duty to steer them in the right direction, but also give them the confidence to believe in what is right.


1. Parents are responsible for guiding their teens and correcting their mistakes.
2. It is vital for criticism to be constructive and helpful in order to promote better performance.
3. Taking criticism well is a skill that can help in developing a growth mindset.
4. Express your advice in a way that is painless by using a sandwich of compliments.
5. Learn to observe when criticism is needed and when to be supportive silently.


Malathi A Ganesh is a B. Com Graduate, NTT, M.A (Lit), PGDEA (PG in Education Administration), PGDCA (PG Diploma in Computer Application), DTE (Diploma in Teaching English), ICEPT (International Certificate in Education Preschool Teaching) from Singapore and B. Ed. She has been in the field of education for the past 20 years and has an experience of running her own pre-school She is the Founder & Director Academics of Smartkidz Educare India Pvt Ltd with 275+ play schools Pan India. She is an Educationist and a Child Psychologists by profession who wants to fulfill her dream of giving Quality Education to children in their earlier years. She is also into conducting positive parenting workshops, which talks about effective child rearing. She has conducted numerous parenting workshops in all her pre schools, schools and MNC’s.

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