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11th May 2021

A clinical psychologist’s ‘soft criticism’ technique for disciplining your child

Laura Cunningham

“Kids can’t undo what they’ve already done, and we don’t want to leave them stuck feeling badly about themselves.”

Kids will be kids. Things will happen that’ll make us lose our cool. And we’re compelled to correct certain behaviors, in order to be ‘good’ parents.

But none of us want to be the big bad wolf all the time either.

So how do we ensure our children learn from a situation, without totally letting them off the hook?

Clinical psychologist and mother of four, Eileen Kennedy-Moore recently explained  her method to Parents.

Step 1: Offer an excuse for their behavior

“Start by saying, ‘I know you didn’t mean to’ or ‘you probably didn’t realise’ or ‘I get that you were trying to.’ This tells him that you know he’s a good kid and has good intentions even when he messes up.”

Step 2: Tell them what they did wrong and how it affected others

“Say, ‘when you hit your brother, his arm hurt a lot.’ It may be tempting to add, ‘you always treat him that way’ or ‘you don’t care enough about other people’s feelings,’ but you won’t make your point clearer by convincing her of her badness.”

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A post shared by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD (@ekmphd)

Step 3: Move forward

“Kids can’t undo what they’ve already done, and we don’t want to leave them stuck feeling badly about themselves. Ask your child questions to help him come up with a plan for making things right, such as, ‘what can you do to help your brother feel better?’ Depending on the situation, you can suggest possible ways to make amends. This could involve apologising, comforting, sharing, cleaning up, or doing a chore, such as sorting the recycling. In the broadest sense, if your kid did something to hurt the family, then he can do something to help the family. And when he does something kind or helpful to make amends, express genuine appreciation.”

Kennedy-Moore believes in empowering kids to solve their own problems, and that’s exactly what this method promotes.

We’re definitely going to try it.