A friend recently reminded me how important it is to speak up to our children about their good qualities. It’s our job as parents to right their wrongs and correct them when something goes awry. But when we get caught up this job of correcting our kids, we often neglect the good. If our days are spent calling out the bad, it begins to affect the self-esteem. Now, I’m not a big fan of this term. Often, permissive parents are guided by a fear of damaging the self-esteem. But that’s not to say that we should ignore it completely.
There are times in my life when I’ve been praised more than I’ve been reprimanded. In fact, I had a boss once who was always so good at praising me. Ten years later, I still remember some of the wonderful things he said about me. That praise made me feel good, and it was very motivating. It gave me a reason to please!
Let’s think this idea through more completely. Which statement do you think will motivate your child to do well?
- Don’t touch that. You’ll mess it up.
- You’re doing such a nice job keeping your hands to yourself.
- Stop whining. It’s only a little scrape.
- I know you’re upset, but you’re being so brave by not crying.
- Hurry up and brush your teeth. Move faster!
- You’re doing a such a careful job brushing your teeth.
- Be careful! You’re going to spill that juice!
- Good job being independent enough to pour your own juice. Let me show you how to clean up after yourself.
When my friend mentioned this idea to me, she suggested that our kids will start to believe in all the negative words we spout out at them. If all we say are things like “don’t touch that,” “move faster,” and “stop whining” they will start to think they are destructive, slow cry babies. If we replace those words with “nice job,” “brave,” and “independent,” those words will stick with them. They will believe they are good, brave, and independent.
My friend said to do this even when things aren’t going quite right. The example she gave was when her son got mad and yelled at his sister. My friend could still praise her son for using only his words, not his hands, and not swearing. True, he could have walked away before getting angry, but it could also have been a lot worse.
If you’re not in the habit of offering praise, think of ways to remind yourself. Perhaps set a timer so you say something good once an hour. Or put up a note in your kitchen to remind yourself. Remember to always look for the good, even in bad situations.