Parents and teachers spend an enormous amount of time thinking about how to frame feedback for kids. We’re torn between the desire to teach and the urge to protect children from pain. In an attempt to make feedback palatable, we dress it up in pretty outfits, sand down its sharp corners and construct feedback sandwiches of critical meat between slices of fluffy and comforting praise.
We all face criticism, both constructive and destructive, but how we deal with that criticism determines whether we persevere and learn from experience or crumple under the weight of our own self-loathing and despair. 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.
In the best guide I’ve found to learning this skill, “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well,” Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Projectexplain that 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 hearing feedback well, they argue, is to adopt what the psychologist and author Carol Dweck calls 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. <Read more.>