Constructive feedback can light the way for the most positive and rewarding moments in parenting teens. Well-timed, well-worded feedback is a powerful tool in the parental toolbox that can help encourage good decisions and shore up wobbly relationships. The key to helping your teen benefit from positive feedback is to deliver it at the right moment, in the right way, and with the right motives. Here’s my blueprint for constructive feedback:
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)
Constructive Feedback Is…
Focused – Talk about behavior and choices, not their person. Give feedback regarding their actions, not their character.
Helpful – Positive feedback should be designed to serve the needs of the person receiving it; not the person giving it.
Relevant – Provide guidance for the things that your teen can do something about.
Best When Solicited – Feedback is best heard when it is given in response to an invitation by the teen to share your opinion or counsel.
Immediate – Give positive support at the earliest opportunity following good decision-making.
Unassuming – Take the “why” out of the conversation and don’t double-guess their motivations. Instead, focus on “what” happened.
Authentic – Constructive feedback is accomplished best in a relationship built on concern for the teenager’s welfare, not on parental convenience or to protect the family image.
Constructive Feedback Is NOT…
Forced – Wait to be invited before offering feedback. Otherwise, it will sound like a lecture and fall on deaf ears.
Overloaded – Offer feedback in small bites. Instead of telling your teen everything you think they need to hear to fix every problems, limit the information to what they can most readily use today. If you find this difficult, you are probably seeking to satisfy your own needs, not your teen’s.
Threatening – There should be no mixed messages or hidden threats in giving constructive feedback. If you are unsure of how your teen is receiving the message, ask him to rephrase what you’ve said to make sure it is clear.
It isn’t always possible to deliver constructive feedback wrapped up in neat little packages. Just be sure your discussion doesn’t get out of hand or turn into a cycle of negativity. And it will probably be necessary to repeat or reinforce the message several times before your teen will clearly understand what you are saying. That just goes with the territory.
You may consider your feedback successful when you are sure it is understood exactly as you meant it (for their own good). Whether or not they heed the advice is another matter altogether. But I’ve found that over time, such feedback will begin that take hold in the life of the teen, especially if the advice leans more toward the positive than the negative.
May you and yours have a blessed Easter!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas. He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids. He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.
His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.org. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.
Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.