If your sympathy becomes immediate fuel for more teacher-bashing, your child may learn to defensively reject all future suggestions for improvement.
Viewed through doting-parent lenses, your kids are the most beautiful, talented specimens of humanity to ever grace their age group. And it’s fine to tell them so—with discretion. Unrestricted praise tends to have either of two detrimental effects:
So if you want your children to appreciate themselves as they are and still continue to improve (and enjoy the process of improvement), what’s the best approach to compliments?
It’s important that children know you accept them, not for what they can do or how well they behave, but simply because they’re yours. Tell them that. And assure them that no matter how badly they screw up, they can always come to you for support. (You needn’t save them from every consequence; they just want to know you won’t reject them for even a major mistake.)
“I love that color combination you picked out” or “The man you drew here looks particularly realistic” rings truer than the more generic “Great job!” (One caveat: If you’re transitioning to specific after a long period of generic, lead in with “Great job” the first several times, or compliments on the man may trigger worries about “What’s wrong with the rest of the picture?”)
Stopping at “That’s a beautiful piece of work” (even if it is) could give a child the idea that success should come easily. Besides, everyone likes to be acknowledged for a hard job well done. And even if the result is less than stellar, you can still deliver sincere compliments for the courage to try something new, the perseverance to finish it, and the willingness to put forth a best effort. A child raised on that sort of compliment will grow up to be the sort of hard worker who naturally attracts compliments not just from doting relatives, but from the larger world.