We live in a culture where we are strongly encouraged to praise our children for every little thing. How realistic do you think this is? If all that comes out of our mouth is "great job" even though in your heart we might be thinking, "Really?!!!" Praising sounds like a broken record. I have noticed that it doesn't even carry the same weight as it used to.
Should we be praising our children for everything? I am not quite sure how realistic that is, if your child drew an ugly picture do you say, "What a beautiful picture!". If you do, will this be considered as lying to your child? How bad will that be when you are trying to teach your child to live an honest life. What will your child really learn from all this praising? Praising is meant to encourage and increase self-esteem. However, if we say it all the time and for all the little things, it becomes worthless. It loses it's value. Your child doesn't learn what act he or she is doing is actually good and worth repeating. Sometimes, your child will ignore the praise because it sounds so ordinary to their ears.
However, I am not saying we shouldn't praise our children. Before dispensing the praises, think about what you would like it to accomplish. The goal of praising is to help children feel accomplished; therefore be specific. Instead of just saying good job, say, "It looks like you PUT IN EFFORT to draw that picture." or "It is great that you kept your eyes on the ball and did your best to kick the ball, even if you didn't succeed."as well as, "It seems like you really listened to your teacher's feedback, even if it upsets you." and "I feel so proud that you looked like you were trying to control your temper even though you were really angry.". Be specific on the behavior that you are praising. Sometimes, children don't always know what you are praising them for. My favorite line is "Thank you for finally following my direction.". I find a lot of parents will say "good job" when children finally follow the 5th redirection. At that point, it is not a good job, it is simply thank you for finally doing it. You are acknowledging their effort but not praising. Those two words "Thank you" goes a long way, sometimes even more than "Great job". It conveys respect and acknowledgment in a way that doesn't inflate children's sense of esteem and they stop trying.
Thank you for reading this blog, good job thinking about this concept and evaluating how you can incorporate it into your daily life. Moms and dads, help yourself not feel overcompensating to your child's behavior. Be realistic about what you say. Help encourage specific behaviors and values, rather than an overarching behavior, children sometimes don't conceptualize that until later on.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.