Tips for Parents & Teachers: How to Criticize Kids Constructively

Criticism is one word that raises your eyebrows and sulks you down. Arguably, it has no positive connotation for most of us. So, it is never received in a healthy way either. So the matter of concern is, when we as adults can’t handle criticism, what about the kids, who are subject to severe and regular criticism. Everybody who is somebody in their life, comments and takes the liberty to pass judgement on their each and every act, unfortunately most of which is in critical form.

So how to safeguard them or how to prepare them so that this unwarranted criticism does more good than harm to them.

Criticism, or if they can be called Feedback, are both constructive and destructive. Receiving feedback is a skill, and like most skills, it requires practice, and a willingness to change and improve. Most children get plenty of practice. Ironically, adults need to help them make that practice count – by giving them feedback on how they handle criticism.

Feedback – both positive and negative – is challenging because it hits us in the vulnerable soft spot between our desire to grow and our deep need to be accepted and respected. The key to take a feedback in a positive manner, is to adopt a “growth mindset.” People with a growth mindset believe that effort and challenge make us better, stronger and smarter, while those with a “fixed mindset” believe that our inherent assets are static no matter what we do.

But, not all of the criticism kids face is constructive. Some of it is born out of ulterior motives or dark intentions, but the good news is that a growth mindset can protect kids from this sort of feedback as well.

A growth mindset is the best gift we can give our children. Thus armed, they can be brave in the face of constructive criticism, believing it can make them better, stronger and smarter. They won’t need us to safeguard their interest because, given a growth mindset, kids can handle the truth all by themselves.

So, what to do?

Don’t hesitate to criticize:

Many kids have trouble hearing feedback because they don’t experience it often enough. While it’s natural to want to protect children from pain, when we protect our kids from criticism or focus excessively on praise, we push them toward a fixed mindset.

Stop constant praise:

An effusive praise may encourage a fixed mindset and consequently discourage children from taking on new challenges. Worse, it can deflate, rather than shore up, self-esteem in some kids. Children need to get used to hearing constructive feedback, and it’s our job to teach them how.

Mind your body language:

Non-verbal communication is part of delivering feedback, and can help kids hear it more effectively. Uncross your arms, get down on kids’ level, smile and keep your face relaxed. If you are tense when you hand out criticism, they will be tense when they receive it.

Switch up your pronouns:

Instead of framing feedback in terms of “I’m so proud of you”, turn the statement and anchor feedback in the pronoun “you,” as in, “You should be proud of yourself,” or “What did you feel best about?” or “What one thing would you like to change?”

Empower for change:

Lessen your control and hand power over to the children and help them adjust their efforts to use feedback effectively. Ask, “Is that how you’d hoped this would turn out?” or “What would you do differently the next time?” Help them see the way forward with comments like, “How do you think you could take this project from good to awesome?”

Set new goals after a big failure. Once they have picked themselves up, help them pick some new goals based on what they have learned from the situation at hand. Their goals should be their own, devised by them, based on their experience.

Criticism comes to everyone, eventually. It’s inescapable, and more relevantly, it’s a necessary part of growing up. As we can’t protect children from it, the best we can do is ensure that they are equipped with the emotional fortitude and strength of character they will need to forge ahead, stronger, smarter and braver for the experience.

12 Tips For Involving Parents in the IEP Process

As special education teachers one of our main responsibilities is to develop Individual Education Programs (IEP’s) along with a team of individuals including the child’s parents or caregivers. The process is very time consuming for Special Education teachers. It is not usual spend upwards to several hours just gathering information and getting ready to conduct the IEP meeting as well as write it. Some IEP’s are only a few pages long but others, especially for a child who needs many services, can be twenty or more pages.

The purpose of the IEP is for a team to develop goals and objectives as well as outlining services the child needs for the at least the next year. IEP’s are written annually and some require revising or writing more often.

Each individual on the team is supposed to have input into helping develop the IEP goals. The key term here is “supposed”. While some team members are more involved than others, the burden of producing and writing a correct IEP is on the Special Education teacher.

As often happens, the Spec. Ed. teacher arranges the meeting, sends out the needed notices to the participants and then will write the IEP. While the goals and objectives are usually written during the meeting itself, the Spec. Ed. teacher has a good idea as to what goals to include. She has also spent time writing the narratives for other parts of the IEP.

Team members who are invited to the meeting have little or no input into the process and will just show up to sign the document produced. Ideally, the team members who should have most of the input into the IEP are the Spec. Ed teacher, classroom teacher, key support personnel and the parents.

The struggle that most Spec. Ed. teachers face is how to get the parents to become more of a participant in the IEP. Parents along with their child are the key stake holders in developing an appropriate IEP. What can Spec. Ed teachers do to get parents more involved in the process?

Here are 12 tips for Special Ed teachers to get the parent involved in the process:

1. Prior to the IEP meeting, the Special Ed. teacher should interview the parent to see what their concerns are for their child and what goals and objectives they would like to see implemented in the IEP.

2. At least a week before the meeting, send home a list of possible goals and objectives for the parent to review and make additions to or corrections to them.

3. Probably the most important is to set a time for the meeting that is mutually agreeable to all but most especially the parent.

4. Be sure during the meeting to welcome comments and concern that the parent may have. Ask questions specifically addressed to them. Don’t let anyone interrupt them.

5. If a parent begins to speak, let them and be sure that others allow time for them to talk as well. If team members feel the need to talk among themselves while the parent is talking, ask them to go out of the room so that a parent does not have to compete with others attention.

6. Keep a steady flow of communication with the parents all the time – not just at the IEP meeting.

7. Keep the parent appraised of what is happening with their child. This means not just report card or parent conference time. This means at other times as well. This way the parent can know what is working and what isn’t working.

8. Let the parent know of successes their child has experienced as well as what things need to be done differently.

9. During the meeting be sure to acknowledge the parent as a part of the team and let the other members of the team know that what they are saying and discussing is important.

10. As teachers we get very attached to the children we work with, especially those that we work with for multiple years. It is important that we keep in mind that this child, for whom we are meeting, is not our child but belongs to the parent. We may not always agree with the parent but their wishes should be considered and acknowledged.

11. The most important skill we can develop as facilitators of meetings is to listen, listen and listen when the parent talks. This means active listening – with eyes and ears.

12. Lastly, let the parent know that you care about their child and about them as a family. Parents of children with Special Needs often need reassuring that their child is a part of the classroom, has friends and others who care for them.

Try these tips and see if they help to get parents more involved in the IEP process.

Top Special Educational Advocacy Tips for Parents

Most parents who have a child with special needs want to home school their child. They choose to do so in order to keep their child safe from peer pressure and close to themselves, for their child’s safety. This can be a daunting process, if you choose to educate your child yourself. However, it is not insurmountable. Check out the following steps that can make the process easier:

1. Know what suits your child best

You as a parent know the best for your child. If you feel that your child has a certain disability, you can help them cope with it. You understand your child best so you decide better what can help them learn. You can use different visuals, cues and other fun learning ways to educate your child.

2. Use letters to communicate important matters

Communication through email or telephone doesn’t work really well. Letters help you keep track of the entire history of communication. You may need to look back at your child’s documents later in case you fall into a disagreement with the educational advocate. You may create “minutes of the meeting” and send a copy to the personnel later, in case you have a face-to-face conversation.

3. Ask the educational advocate if you feel something is wrong

Your child’s advocate may suggest something that you may disagree with. You have all the right to ask for the details about the policy regarding that matter. It is important that all parents know about the policies for children with special needs. If need be, you can also ask for proof of the policy that your child’s advocate may suggest, for the benefit of your child.

4. Know the special education and disability laws in your state

It is important that you know all the laws related to special education and disabilities. This is important for your child’s education and future. You can avoid going misinformed by the special education personnel. The personnel may not communicate important matters that can affect your child’s education process.

5. Know the rights that your child has under special educational services

It is essential to know what sort of special care and service your child is entitled to. You can talk to your child’s advocate; do some self-research too, in order to provide the best education for your child. Educational advocacy services are of great help, as they make sure your child’s needs are fulfilled and your child receives proper education.