4. You're a critic, not a coach.
You scrutinize your child's every mistake. When her report card is filled with A's and B's, you point to the C she got in spelling and say, "What happened?" When she makes her bed but leaves some sheets dangling over the mattress, you say, "Why can't you make the bed properly?"
HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR KIDS If your critiques outweigh your kudos, your child may either ignore you or get defensive, and in either case will miss out on anything constructive you have to say. Worse, nitpicking also can erode her self-confidence -- to the point where she could stop trying to achieve because she's afraid she'll fail and disappoint you. Or maybe she'll become a perfectionist, thinking that anything less will cost her your love. "If you constantly give negative feedback or fixate on your child's weaknesses instead of her strengths, she may believe that she can't succeed," says Cathy Cassani Adams, a child and family psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent: 19 Lessons for Growing With Your Children.
KICK THE HABIT You should always give your kid more praise than put-downs. That doesn't mean you need to avoid mentioning mistakes -- just that, first, you should acknowledge your child's achievement: "Wow, look at all the A's and B's. That's great!" Then, gently offer assistance in the area where she fell short: "Spelling's a tough subject. I'd like to help you study for your next test."
In general, resist the urge to point out every error, and instead try to mention the good things she does on a daily basis, Adams advises. You might say, "Thanks for bringing your dishes over. That helps me clean up after dinner" instead of "Why did you leave the ketchup on the table?" Another benefit of upping the kudos: Your child will be more willing to take a critique seriously because she knows that you see what she does right.
Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Parents magazine.