Many a time, criticism turns out to be the most accessible tool for an educator (whether he is a parent or a teacher) whenever he wants to change the student's behavior. When we criticize, we touch somebody on a raw spot and most of the times the outcome may be the opposite of what we wanted. Perhaps it's better to focus on praising people, on the way we can make people feel better whenever their behavior is satisfactory, rather than repeatedly penalizing their negative conduct.
Nonetheless criticism sometimes appears to be the only handy solution. But if we still need to criticize, it is advisable to identify a series of elements that should be taken into consideration. We must not forget that people don't like being criticized and that is why we ought to consider those undertones, those elements that can help us not step into a situation worse than the one before.
1. It is useful to criticize the behavior and not the person. Don't say "You are mean!", but "This thing you are doing is wrong." A man can indeed change his behavior if he is driven enough to do so, but he can't change completely!
2. Criticism must be confidential. Other people should not witness criticism and the person in question should not be pointed at as the "negative example". A man will accept criticism more easily if he doesn't bear the weight of being watched, which can make him feel a negative sensation of pressure.
3. When we criticize we must control our nonverbal behavior. There is no need to emphasize the negative elements using a cold and contentious tone. We shouldn't frown or take an aggressive stance (such as standing with arms akimbo). On the contrary, we should have a positive attitude (pay attention however not to smile, as you could confuse your child: he won't know anymore if you are upset with him or you just pretend to be). There are though other elements that can be used successfully when criticizing: for instance, a friendly touch on the arm can be helpful. This gesture will improve communication and will make criticism more easily to be accepted and dealt with. Here are three probative experiments:
a) As a human rule, touching provides a fertile framework for developing a positive attitude. R. V. Joule and L. Beavois conducted an experiment for that purpose. Inside a campus, an experimenter asked different students to give him directions to a certain destination. Some of them were "accidentally" touched on the arm and some of them not. All the students in question showed him the way to his destination. A little further, another experimenter asked the same students for a similar favor. It was noted that 40% of the students who had been touched on the arm agreed to guide the latter experimenter, compared to only 5% of those who hadn't been touched.
b) In another experiment, Whitcher and Fisher noted that out of a number of patients who had been explained how their surgery would come off, the ones who had been lightly touched on their arm by the nurse showed beneficial effects like: they understood the given information better, they were less stressed and they perceived the entire hospitalization more positively than those who hadn't been touched.
c) At last, Wheldall, Bevan and Shortall conducted an experiment of great pedagogical significance. These researchers noted that the students who were lightly touched on the arm by the teacher while they were being praised showed 60% less undisciplined behavior and 20% more involvement in the given tasks than the students who were praised without being touched.
Above all, we must always remember the purpose of our criticism, which is to change a certain behavior in our child / student and not to feel satisfied after he has done something that hurt or annoyed us.