As parents and educators, we always want to help our sons and daughters improve by giving help and advice. However, the way we give feedback can actually have the opposite effect.

According to Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman, humans experience approximately 20,000 moments everyday, defined as a few seconds which our brain records as an experience. Scientists have proposed that our brains keep track of positive and negative moments and that running tally in our mind determines our overall mood.

Researcher John Gottman showed that in order to overcome a negative interaction or comment, humans need at least 5 positive interactions. He called this the Magic Ratio of 5:1.

What does all this mean for parents and teachers? Students need positive encouragement and feedback to keep them motivated and connected before they receive a critique of their work.

5 Tips for Giving Corrective Feedback:

1. Avoid giving feedback when emotions are running high
2. Use if … then … statements
3. Ask for permission to give feedback
4. Give any critical comments privately
5. Sandwich correct feedback between positive comments

How Full Is Your Bucket

Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath proposed a bucket and dipper metaphor of looking at positive and negative interactions in their book How Full Is Your Bucket. Imagine that you have a bucket that gets filled with positive experiences, such as recognition or praise. On the other hand, when you are negative towards others, you are using a dipper to remove positive experiences from their bucket. When you treat others in a positive way, you fill not only their buckets but your own as well.

What Can You Do to Be a Bucket-Filler?

1. Stop bucket dipping. Think about whether you are giving positive or negative feedback and work toward a ratio of five positives to one negative.
2. Focus on the positive and reinforce good behavior. Focus on the strengths of your students and what they are doing right, rather than where they need to make improvements.
3. Make Best Friends. People with ‘best friends’ are generally more positive and perform at a higher level.
4. Give unexpectedly. Most people prefer rewards or a gift that is a surprise.
5. Reverse the Golden Rule. Instead of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, try Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

Get Your Students Involved

Encourage your students to be bucket fillers! Students can praise each other and give compliments, and help each other out. Even better if you help out a friend without being asked first!

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