Young People Learn to Deal With Criticism

— Written By

The Caldwell County Agricultural Fair gives youth an opportunity to showcase their skills through exhibits and learn how to receive and react to feedback.

The carnival rides are leaving town and the smell of fair food lingers, but the work of a youth exhibitor at the Caldwell County Agricultural Fair is not finished yet. Sunday youth receive feedback cards from their fair judges, and they have choices about how to react.

In November 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes,” according to the National Constitution Center.

At the end of this often-quoted statement, something could be added to Franklin’s list of life’s inevitable features. Besides death and taxes I think feedback is another certainty in life that everyone faces. Youth who encounter it often and learn how to appropriately react will be better off for it.

Usually youth learn their behaviors from observing and mimicking what they see. If intentional conversations about how to take criticism have not taken place and the benefits of feedback have not been explained, the information will likely be seen as negative or offensive.

Youth exhibits at the fair ranged from horticulture to baked goods and photography, and their feedback cards include notes about what was done well with an exhibit and what aspects need improvement. If they do not have a physical feedback card, it is because they received verbal feedback Monday night during conference judging, where a face-to-face conversation took place.

photo exhibits

fair exhibit

faie exhibit

fair exhibits

fair judges Fair exhibit

With both scenarios, the opportunity exists for an intentional conversation about criticism. The 4-H motto says it best: To Make the Best Better.

More than likely, youth will be confronted with failure time and time again in life. If they can form the mindset that sometimes their best is not enough to take first place in a contest or later to land a particular job, they will be more resilient during life’s challenges big and small. They also must know they have the option to improve and to try and be the best the next time around.

How does improvement happen? Applying thoughtful feedback as a guide for learning and improvement is one of the best ways to start this process. By viewing feedback as an opportunity, youth can also critically think and maturely decide what they can and cannot control about a situation and take ownership for what they can improve moving forward.

4-H is a safe space for this learning to take place. There are limited consequences when failure occurs, but there are endless opportunities for achievement and self-betterment.

Congratulations to all the youth exhibitors at this year’s Caldwell County Agricultural Fair.

Caldwell County 4-H is a member agency of United Way, and it enthusiastically supports its partnerships.