Ask Dr. Elia: Constructive criticism is an oxymoron

Dear Dr. Elia,

I grew up in a very critical home, and it has really impacted my life and especially my self-esteem. What troubles me is the fact that my parents would always say that they were giving us "constructive criticism" because they wanted us to be better. If we didn't like it, they would say that we were being disobedient and disrespectful. The funny thing is that sometimes what they would say was the truth, but because I felt criticized I just didn't care. I would totally shut down or just ignore them. Now that I'm a parent with little kids, I want to be sure that I don't repeat some of the same patterns. What are you thoughts on constructive criticism? Is that ever OK?

Thank you,

Dear Jennifer,

My views on criticism are pretty clear. Nothing good, healthy or positive comes from being criticized. Parenting experts repeatedly have stated that for every one negative or critical comment toward a child, it takes 10 positive comments to counteract its impact. Some have argued that if it's "constructive" and the criticism is well intended, then that's OK, but here's my experience:

Read the rest of this story at
Comments and feedback can be sent to