Teaching Kids to Give and Receive Effective Feedback

If you’ve ever been on the giving or receiving end of effectively-delivered feedback then you can attest to how different it feels than poorly-delivered feedback.  The negative experiences are often why many people dread the idea of being on either end of the feedback cycle.  But the positive experiences prove that feedback delivered in an intentional and constructive manner actually improves productivity, confidence, and teamwork skills.

Learning how to communicate and receive effective feedback is an invaluable tool that children can learn starting today.  It will not only help them thrive in school and other activities but will also equip them with skills for their future careers and livelihood.

When kids learn how to give feedback and accept feedback, they feel more secure in their environments, more capable in their abilities, are able to better adapt to change, and learn to overcome setbacks with confidence.

These life skills are vital for any entrepreneur who wishes to be successful, wants to enjoy a rewarding career, and understands the value of a good reputation.

What Are Some of the Indicators of Effective Feedback?

Feedback is essentially the practice of relaying information to someone about their behavior, actions, or performance. The goal should always be to either provide practical and relevant ideas and suggestions for improvement or to validate and affirm a person’s behavior, actions, or performance. 

The first type of feedback is generally referred to as constructive feedback and the second type is simply positive feedback. Both forms of feedback are necessary in cultivating self-growth and encouraging continual progress.

All of these skills can be taught to children through role-modeling and with practice. The concepts can be kept simple and adapted to be age-appropriate for any child.

Constructive feedback should always include:

  • Clear and to-the-point language to avoid misinterpretation (without being harsh)
  • Ideas for improvement or to facilitate change
  • Validation of what the receiver has demonstrated, achieved, or done well
  • Realistic goals
  • Commitment to support and accountability

Situations that Warrant Feedback

Life is never without room for improvement! While giving feedback is renowned in the business realm (think: performance reviews), there are also many other opportunities to give and receive feedback including:

  • After an athletic event/game
  • After a performance (public speaking, theatre, singing, presentation)
  • To discuss a verbal altercation/fight/disagreement
  • Giving thoughts on a sales pitch or business idea
  • When reviewing a project, work/business goals, assignment
  • Letting someone know how their words or actions made you feel/impacted others

How to Give Effective Feedback

Keeping in mind the goals of feedback, there are a number of things to remember when giving feedback. 

  • Make it timely.  No one wants to hear about their behavior or performance months after the initial situation occurred. Addressing the issue as soon as possible is best for everyone and helps to avoid resentment and misunderstanding.
  • Start off by stating that you want to provide helpful feedback and then give the receiver a few moments to breathe, relax, and prepare.   
  • Be very specific in your comments and observations.  Providing ambiguous feedback leads to mistrust and further confusion.  Stick to what you know or have observed first hand as opposed to what you’ve “heard through the grapevine”.
  • Try to ensure feedback is given in private and in person if possible. This allows the receiver to feel a sense of safety and respects their dignity. Giving feedback in person is helpful because tone and intent doesn’t have to be inferred as it does in writing.

How to Receive Feedback

It’s just as important to learn how to effectively receive feedback.  No one enjoys giving feedback to someone who they know isn’t going to handle it professionally or who may overreact.  Learning to welcome feedback with integrity and an open-mind will establish trust with others and provide infinite opportunities for growth and success.

  • Take a few deep breaths before your feedback session (if possible) and allow yourself to relax.  Remind yourself that feedback is not about picking apart a person’s character or worth but rather identifying specific behaviors or actions that have room for improvement.  Remember that if someone is willing to give you constructive feedback, it usually means they are willing to continue to invest in you/work with you/engage with you.
  • Defer judgement and defensiveness until you fully understand what the feedback entails.
  • Practice active listening.  This means ask questions if you need clarification. Respond to or repeat what you are hearing to ensure you are both on the same page. Take notes or ask for notes if you feel that would be helpful. Engage and show you are actively listening by using open, positive body language and gestures.
  • Thank the giver for being willing to be honest and respectful in giving feedback. Even feedback givers need validation!

    As children learn to give and accept effective feedback, they also learn to broaden their perspectives and strengthen a positive mindset.  They will become adults who are able to have healthier communication in relationships (both professionally and personally) and respected for their ability to constantly better themselves.