4 Simple Ways To Stop Criticizing Your Kids

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Overly Critical
21 Dec 2016

“I know I am overly critical, but I can’t seem to stop myself!”

“My kids get hurt and upset when I tell them what to do. Am I being too harsh?”

“I had huge doses of criticism from my parents and I don’t want to do that to my kids. What can I do instead?”

“I always seem to be nagging my kids. I sound annoying even to myself!”

Criticism is painful to hear. Nagging can be even worse. Harsh words can damage a child’s self esteem, create power struggles and a tense environment at home. All things that parents want to avoid.

However, many parents feel the way “How will they learn if I don’t point out what they do wrong?”

Here are 3 ways to help you stop nagging and criticizing your kids and teach your kids how to act right:

1. Stop criticizing yourself:

 People who are overly critical with others are generally pretty rough on themselves. Their self-talk consists of a lot of personal nagging and criticism.

“How stupid of you to miss that accounting mistake!”
“That was such a dumb career move!”
“I am the worst mother/father!”

The first step to stop criticizing your kids, is to stop criticizing yourself. Stop beating yourself up. Life is full of mistakes, challenges and ups and downs. It is okay not to perfect.

Try some inspirational affirmations and share them with your family:

“Mistakes happen”
“No one is perfect!”
“ Mistakes are okay, they are actually part of the learning curve.”

2. It’s not all bad:

 There are some people who are just born cheerful and sunny. There are others who are more serious and analytical. They think in very logical and systematic ways. They can seem overly critical and pessimistic and they might not understand why they have a tough time getting along with others.

However, we need people like that in this world. People who are detail oriented and can hone in on inconsistencies and problems easily, and then think of solutions. They make great newscasters, researchers, judges and business analysts.

If you are one of these people, recognize the need for diplomacy in family situations. Not everything that is noticed needs to be said. For the times you can’t hold back, you can try to:

3. Point out what your child is doing right:

Ironically, we do not need to point out all the things are child is doing wrong to discipline them. The fact is we can change a child’s behavior simply by telling him what he is doing right.

Point out what they are doing right and what still needs to be done.

Here are some examples:

Instead of: “This is a sloppy paper!”

Point out what is right and what still needs to be done:
“This word here and this letter here are on the line. Here is a good amount of space between the words. Can you try that with the rest of the line?”


Instead of:
“Stop running and yelling.”


Point out what is right and what still needs to be done:

“You walked all the way from doctors office to the steps using a quiet voice — only a few more steps to go using a quiet voice and steady feet.”


Instead of:
“You won’t be able to go to pizza if you don’t hurry up and finish your homework.”

Point out what is right and what still needs to be done:

“You did a whole worksheet. One more to go before we can go for pizza.”


Why does this work? There is little negativity and harshness. Furthermore, it is comforting for a child to be reminded of her little accomplishments; it helps motivate her to continue.


4.  Make a sandwich:

Another alternative to criticism and nagging is to use the sandwich technique:

1.   Use descriptive praise.

2.   Talk briefly about the negative behavior.

3.   End with descriptive praise or an affirmation.




1. You know how to share; yesterday I saw you share your snack with Sara.”

2. “You need to stop fighting over the blocks.”
3. “I know you can find a way to share.”


1.   “You know how to speak nicely to your friends; I heard you say ‘thank you’ when Sara gave you a pencil.”

2.   “I heard you call Eli a ‘dummy.’”

3.   “You know how to make people feel better when their feelings are hurt.”

4.  Offer your help:

When our kids are acting out, not getting into bed when they are supposed to, not cleaning their rooms when you have asked them to or not doing their homework, let it go, but make sure a little bit later on, or the next day to say to them:

“I saw you were having a hard time getting into bed. I was getting really frustrated and so were you. Is there anyway I can help make bedtime better for you?”

Yesterday, you were really upset that you had to clean your room? Is there anyway that we can think of to make it easier for you?

I see you are getting really frustrated with homework. Is there anything I can do to help you?


It is not simple to learn these techniques when you are used to criticizing, however with practice it can get easier. Everyone in your family will be a lot happier.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.