Feedback is what helps us grow and develop. Meaningful feedback in the workplace has the power to motivate and is the basis for professional growth and improvement. But it’s not always easy to get right.

Parents familiar with the feedback struggle at work may also be striving to find ways to give effective feedback to their children at home. Does your child know how to accept feedback, or do they take it personally and become defensive? 

A growth mindset approach to learning allows our children to reach their potential. When they understand that their intelligence, talents, and skills are not predetermined at birth, this gives them the confidence to take risks with their learning. 

This type of viewpoint is also necessary in an office environment. A growth mindset encourages us to be open to feedback and see it as an opportunity to make further progress. 

Welcoming and accepting feedback in the workplace is hard enough for some adults. How can we as parents and educators help our children learn to embrace feedback from an early age? And how can we help deliver it in a way that allows them to see it as empowering rather than demotivating?

Here are five methods we apply at Role Models for giving more meaningful feedback to children. You just might find these same approaches help with your work colleagues too.  

Be specific 

Feedback is most helpful and has the biggest impact when it is clear. Rather than ‘well done,’ ‘brilliant work’ or ‘it could be better,’ highlight the particular successes or areas for development such as “you remembered to re-read every sentence, well done” or “next time, check every sentence is punctuated.” 

This applies when you’re praising your five-year-old or appraising your work colleague.

Focus on the process

Is your feedback based only around the outcome you hope to achieve? Do you also take the opportunity to give feedback based on the process and approach your child has taken? This helps support a growth mindset. Commenting on their effort, hard work, and other attributes they have (or haven’t) shown helps them understand the importance of these factors. 

Likewise in the office, although success is often quantified in numbers and output, taking the time to recognize effort, tenacity, and resilience can be just as powerful. Focusing purely on the outcome can breed unhealthy perfectionist tendencies, in your children and colleagues. 

The power of ‘and’

We’re all familiar with the sandwich technique for feedback of hiding the constructive comment in between two positive comments. Often, we’re just waiting for the middle bit or the word ‘but.’ Instead of this, try using the word ‘and.’ It’s a great way to offer constructive feedback which builds on the positive rather than hides underneath it. “You’ve based your story on a brilliantly creative idea and if you now work on structuring your ideas into clear paragraphs, the story will flow better.” 

In the workplace, this feedback technique can empower your colleagues rather than leave them demotivated by a perceived criticism. 

Offer your observations 

Feedback is often hard to accept because of how it’s delivered. Is it given as a direct criticism or offered as a gift? 

By using the right language, we can offer our insight and observations. This can make your suggestions feel less threatening and more empowering to a child. “Can I tell you something I noticed…” or “I wonder if…” allows the receiver of the feedback to decide what to do with it and how to use the information (which in turn means they are more likely to act upon it). 

This approach can also be effective in the workplace, although care should be taken not to sound condescending or disingenuous.

Focus on the action 

Young children in particular often find it hard to understand that feedback is not a critique of them as a person, but about their actions. We can help by making sure the feedback we give is clearly attributed to their actions and not their personality “You chose to take that toy away from your friend which was unkind” rather than “You are unkind.”

This shift can be incredibly powerful in the workplace too. The message should be ‘The approach you’re taking is inefficient’ rather than ‘You’re inefficient.’ 

Instilling an early growth mindset 

A true mark of a growth mindset is understanding that there is always room for growth. If we can help our children begin to see feedback as a gift they will develop into adults who are reflective, open, and who approach the workplace with humility and a tenacity to keep improving. As parents and working adults we can consider the points above when giving feedback and we can also reflect on our own responses when receiving feedback. 

What opportunities can you use to illustrate the power of good feedback?

Louise Treherne has a degree in Psychology and is an experienced teacher. She is the Head of Character Education at Role Models, whose mission is to inspire a generation of young people around the world to be their best selves.

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