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The Blindfold Feedback Challenge: A Great Exercise to Teach Kids How to Receive Constructive Feedback

Hello TBSH Friends and Fans – it’s Bridgette here :). As you may know, my son Max … now twelve years old … has been playing soccer since the little fella could toddle around – like 3 years old!  I probably should have count on the exact total games he’s played thus far, but let’s do some simple math and estimate (20 games / per years … assuming seasonal games and tournament games, year round) 240+.  I don’t even want to try and estimate the amount of practices he’s been to up to this point!

Max has been playing at a competitive level for a few years now and tonight was the first he received an individual assessment and feedback session with his head soccer coach.  I don’t want to make it seem he has never received feedback from other coaches, because he has … but, it has always been more impromptu and in the moment.  The feedback he received today was more formal, and structured – for lack of better words, it was thoughtful and constructive.

Why does this even matter?  Well, I guess because it was one of the first times I have seen Max be conflicted with how to handle constructive feedback.  And, as parents, Guillaume and I recognized this was a great moment to mentor him into a different method into how he takes other’s feedback, especially when the intention is meant to serve as a guide for betterment.  And why we felt so strongly about this moment to be a good opportunity is because, like many, we were seeing him build defensive posture and remarks at feedback that he interpreted as negative … and we felt it was preventing him from realizing the opportunity he has in front of him to learn and grow.

So, what did we do?  Well, first of all, a HUGE shout out to my hubby, Guillaume, because he pulled from his trusty leadership bag-of-tricks and suggested an exercise he calls: Observation Intervention.  Basically, this exercise is something he was taught in leadership training that was suggested to be used whenever he observes a situation where he needs to give feedback within the work setting and he knows what he must communicate is not going to be full of all positive remarks.  And, the exercise is meant to show individuals who are not fairing well with receiving feedback on how to approach their method for receiving feedback differently so they are taking from it what is intended: constructive dialogue and consideration for betterment.

Well, this was exactly the circumstance Max found himself, with respect to how he was receiving his coach’s feedback.  The exercise lent value with Max to help him realize the message we were trying to express, which was: Feedback is an opportunity to learn about yourself – Don’t be defensive.  Okay … so, enough about me talking about this “exercise” … let me actually share it 🙂

The Blindfold Feedback Challenge.

Step 1. Get Them Situated.

Put a blindfold on your child and sit them down in a chair.  Get a trash can and 5-6 pieces of balled up paper.  With your child blindfolded, place the trash can about 4-6 feet away from where they are sitting and hand them the balled up pieces of paper.  Explain to them that you are going to ask them to throw each piece of paper, and in between throws you’ll give them feedback.

Step 2.  Negative Feedback.

As your child takes each throw, make remarks about how poorly their throw was.  Give as much negative feedback, and remarks, as possible, to the performance of their throw.  Once they have finished throwing all of the pieces of balled up paper, take the blindfold off.  What you’ll probably find is they threw poorly and most likely didn’t even come close to the trash can!

Step 3.  Positive Feedback.

Now, re-blindfold your child and repeat the exercise of asking them to throw each balled up piece of paper, but this time you’re only going to give positive feedback on their throwing performance as they throw each piece.  Once they have finished throwing all of the pieces of balled up paper, take the blindfold off.  What you’ll most likely find is their aim was better, and even perhaps they got one or two in, but they still didn’t get all of the pieces into the trash can.

Step 4.  Constructive Feedback.

The last part of the exercise is: re-blindfold your child and repeat the exercise of asking them to throw each balled up piece of paper, but this time you’re going to only offer factual, constructive instruction and feedback to how their shot at the trash has faired to success.  Once they have finished taking all shots at the trash can with their pieces of paper, take the blindfold off.  What you should find is their aim was best during this specific segment of the exercise.  You can even move the trash can around at Step 2, 3, and 4 and most likely still find the Constructive Feedback session faired best results!

So … why did this even help?  When we did this with our son he was able to see that when he took feedback bad and negative he performed at his worst, and gave up on his effort to perform well.  When he was only receiving positive feedback he didn’t necessarily try his hardest to reach the goal because he knew he was harolded amazing at all times!  But, when he was open and receiving constructive feedback and direction, he improved along the way.  He then reflected on this in association to his coach’s feedback and realized he should be taking it as constructive, versus taking a defensive position.  And, as we explained to him, this is something he can apply to soccer … school … with mentors … and eventually in his career.  In fact, like mentioned above, this exercise is used in corporate leadership to help budding managers and leaders to learn how to focus on constructive feedback, and for those receiving feedback learn the best approach to receiving it.

I hope this may be an approach you find helpful with your kiddos … or, even if you find it relevant, to yourself when giving and receiving feedback!  Try it next time when preparing for the good ‘ol annual performance evaluation, or even when taking a moment, like we did, in mentoring the next generation towards constructive feedback!

I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I did in having the opportunity to teach Max a new way to take feedback :). As always, I’d love comments and feedback … especially if you have found other approaches and exercises just as fruitful!  — XOXO, Bridgette


    • Bridgette says

      Let me know how it goes! Curious if it is the teenager in the household, or the tween, you are going to do this with – although it could be used for both. Heck, sometimes I could probably do this exercise as reminder to my own ability for feedback from my husband 😄


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