When has, “Oh, that looks nice dear,” successfully worked for your or your spouse. Our kids feel the same way when we say things so casually and without thought.
It is probably the most common remark you give your kids when they show you their artwork. Yes? No? I am often guilty of this. My mind is on other things…and what else am I to say!?
The struggle is real.
If you often feel lacking in giving feedback on your child’s art, or you just want to know what to say, here are a few ideas.
HOW TO GIVE YOUR CHILD GREAT ART FEEDBACK
First, without having to memorize any canned phrases, the best thing you need to remember is this: Notice the details. Talk about the details.
Those details are going to save you when little Bobby shows you a page full of shapes that are supposed to be something, but you are not sure what.
WHAT YOU SEE
To notice the details, you have to take a good look at your child picture. Be curious as to what you can find. Then, tell them what you see.
*Caution: Do not guess WHAT it is. Baaad idea! You will probably be wrong. Just say’in! Then you’ll have to cover your tracks.
1. Look at the picture with interest and then tell them what YOU SEE.
“I see* some green circles, a long black line and a yellow circle right there.” The kids eat this up. They feel validated. They know that you have noticed them and their effort.
2. Notice their brushstrokes, shading, numbers of things, dots, lines, etc…
“I see* you made some strong black lines and some light black lines.”
TALK ABOUT THE PICTURE
Most people like to talk about their creations and themselves, children enhance this trait. They crave people, especially their favorite people, to notice and talk with them.
3. How about talking to your child about their drawing/painting.
“Wow! There is a lot going on in your picture, is there a story to this?” or
“This looks interesting, tell me about it…”
“Tell me about…(the shapes, color and where they put everything)?
4. Talk about the process and art materials.
“I was watching you, you looked like you were working very hard.”
“What did you draw first, next….last?”
“How did you (get that color? Make that shape? Draw that animal?)
5. Notice what your child is asking you.
These may be moments where your child is seeking validation, praise or a need to feel important. These are moments that are about your child, not really the artwork. Your child may think it is about the artwork, but these are the moments, you step back
-If your child keeps asking if you like it or love it, ask her, “Do you?“
However, I do like to enthusiastically celebrate a child when they have been working and reworking on this difficult task and had to problem solve. “YOU did it!”
-“Do you think I’ll win?” “Do you think I am better than Bessie?” These are moments we can all relate to and your response to these can be imperative. Turn the conversation to your child (not the artwork, because that is not what it really is about anymore.) Let them know how important they are to you, praise them and whatever feels right.
TO PRAISE, OR NOT TO PRAISE
With children, no one wants to stifle a child’s creativity. Right?
Confession: I tell my own children and art students that I LOVE their work, all the time. On purpose, and on accident.
As an art teacher, I am taught that praising your art student is equivalent to stifling a child’s creativity. It is extremely frowned upon to tell your student “I LOVE it!” (but sometimes it slips out.)
(as mentioned above: However, I do like to enthusiastically celebrate a child when they have been working and reworking on this difficult task and had to problem solve. “YOU did it!”)
The reasoning behind giving feedback is because:
a. If you tell your child you “love it”, they may feel they have reached their maximum best and couldn’t possibly do better than that. They may think, “Better to stop now, I don’t need to try, I’ve hit the top.”
b. You are giving a blanket answer. You are not being thoughtful or really acknowledging the real artwork or the person.
I can’t say I completely agree with all reasoning against praising children's artwork. In my experience, a child wants to please that person more and make more art.
In Psychology 101, you are taught to listen first, then repeat back what the person is saying in a manner to let them know you understand them. I think, in this discussion of giving our children feedback, the reasoning is the same. We look for the details, we start a conversation, all in an effort to let our children know that we understand and care about them.
However, if you are defaulting to simply, “I love it,” or “That’s nice,” phrases like those don’t sound much like you really noticed the special things about his artwork.
When you are out of words and ideas of what to say about your child’s artwork, remember the details. Notice the child. Tell them what you see. Let them know you care and are noticing them.
Enjoy your convo's with your children. They are amazing, but you already knew that.