Adults often forget that children make mistakes because ‘they simply don’t know any better’. An alternative to criticism (or worse, punishment) is to take advantage of teachable moments.
Examine mistakes from the perspective of the child’s missing knowledge or skill. Constructive criticism occurs when a mistake is pointed out, but is followed up with a path to improvement; application of new knowledge, or introduction of an alternative response; or practicing a new skill. This communicates to the child that it is okay to not know, but not okay to continue not knowing; with the positive expectation that the child is capable of doing better. Taking time to educate reinforces the child’s sense of competence and capability.