Criticism in any form isn’t easy to handle and take in, especially when you are young and don’t know HOW to handle it.
Let’s explore a way to support your child to learn to handle criticism, or perhaps lets find and use a better term – feedback.
Criticism versus Feedback
It is interesting looking at the definition of the word criticism in the dictionary. The dictionary defines criticism as:
“the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.”
You will notice that I bolded the word perceived in the sentence because this is the big thing about ‘criticism’; it is all based on the other persons perception or idea of what happened.
Does their perception of what happened mean that you, in this instance your child, did anything wrong? Stop and think about that for a moment, because it is the key to realizing that what the other person is saying about what they did, is only their idea and view of it. That’s it.
No, it doesn’t. It’s their view only.
And I can hear you saying to me “But it was the Coach”, okay, and that means what? Yes, the Coach is the coach, and he sees things in a way that come from his view of wanting the team to win all the time. I get it.
But again, does it mean that anything was wrong with what was done, by your child? No.
That’s why I prefer to call it feedback.
Feedback is information that we can decide to listen to or not.
The Coach might say that your child needed to be faster to the puck. Okay, was that the case? Honestly, could your child have been faster to the puck, on that occasion? I’m guessing, if you are honest, your answer will be yes.
So, in that situation was the comment or ‘criticism’ of what happened incorrect? No, it wasn’t.
It was feedback.
Feedback that says, maybe your child could be faster to the puck in future.
Tone of Voice Makes a Big Difference
The tone of voice in which any message is delivered is key, right? You know yourself that if someone says something to you and their voice is raised, even a little bit, you think they’re angry with you.
Same thing here. And just because the Coach may be frustrated with the play, that’s how he/she is feeling and doesn’t say anything about your child and what happened on the ice.
So, the bottom line is if you are able to help your child understand that any message coming from the Coach is feedback for them, it might make their hockey journey a lot easier.
Explore the Feedback
Have a conversation with your child and if you hear them say they were criticized, you might like to say, “Sounds to me like the Coach provided you with feedback”.
They might then explain “Coach said I was too slow to the puck.” That then gives you an opportunity to talk to them about whether they thought, in that situation, they were slow to the puck or not.
Your child might have thought they weren’t slow, for example. Okay, so how might they get even a little bit faster next time, what could they try to make that happen? Ask them this question. They might have an answer.
If they realize themselves, they were slow getting to the puck, then they will be self-motivated to move faster the next time. And notice I said ‘self-motivated.’
That’s the big thing here. If your child perceives or feels, perhaps more importantly, criticized, they will become deflated and not want to try, not want to do things differently. That’s the opposite of what we want this message to do for them.
If though, they take the feedback and explore it, then either you will help them become a little more motivated or through their own exploration they will become more enthusiastic themselves and go about things differently.
Turning Criticism into Useful Feedback Is the Key
Bottom line here is that you want your child to consider any message provided back to them, from the Coach or anyone else as feedback. Then, they can, perhaps with your help, look at how they might use it and make a change for themselves in the future.
Any feedback is valuable AND an individual can choose to act on the feedback or not. There is a choice.
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.