My 3rd grader came home with a folder of her artwork from school over the last several months. Some of it was good and some not so good. As she showed it to me I would give her my opinion in the form of, “that’s nice or fine” or if it was special I would tell her so. She looked a bit disappointed when I said something was just “okay” and I asked her what she thought about it and after a moment she looked at me and said, "You’re right. it is just okay and I didn’t work very hard on it."
In the wake of the Tiger Mom let there be no mistake - I don’t condone her methods. I don’t think children should be shamed or ridiculed and made to feel badly when they aren’t giving it their all. There are times we all phone it in – or don’t do our best work. That is part of life. But I also don’t think children should be lied to.
When parents praise every scribble, and this applies to very young children as well, they are doing their kids a disservice. Not everything is fabulous and some things are downright mediocre at best. That’s okay.
So when your child comes to you with their creation, try giving them supportive feedback such as, “I really like the colors you chose to use in this picture,” or “I can see you worked hard on this” (if you believe that to be true). You can even put it back on them to critique their own work and then respond to their vision of what they have created. By all means when they do something that you find extraordinary then tell them so whether it is a creative, academic or athletic endeavor. Parent’s feedback often affects decisions children make and so it is important that it be authentic and realistic.
My daughter may not have been overjoyed by my lukewarm reception of some of her artwork but she trusts that when I do give her glowing feedback about something, I am being genuine in my response.