Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Encouraging others, my kids, my husband, co-workers, strangers on the street - I operate from that place naturally. I didn't think a chapter on "Praise" would be a breakout chapter for me. Would I learn something new? Sure. Would it be a monumental "Ah-ha" moment for me? I wasn't convinced.
Chapter 5 of "How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk" (We've got to shorten that... H2TSYKWL&LSYKWT....nope, still too long.) builds upon the last four chapters: Helping Children Deal With Their Feelings, Engaging Cooperation, Alternatives to Punishment and Encouraging Autonomy.
The authors start out by introducing us to Bruce and David. Bruce's mother is on him about everything. Their morning routine is basically Bruce just trying to breathe while his Mom nags him about every tiny thing. He eats in silence instead of engaging with his mom. When he forgets his lunch, his mom is quick to snap that he left his lunch yet again.
David on the other hand, his mom is relaxed and so chill that if David needs 5 more minutes before he wakes up, he gets it. David chats with his mom over breakfast, cleans up his mess and when he makes a mistake is quick to acknowledge it and move on. Be like David.
Bruce and David are both in the same class at school. The teacher says they are going to be doing a Columbus Day play and they need volunteers to go around to other classrooms and invite them to the play. The story ends there and they ask the reader to consider who would be apt to volunteer, Bruce or David.
I had two takeaways:
1. Bruce's mom would really benefit from Cannabis. Like, seriously...Call me girl.
2. Either boy could volunteer, it depends on how they feel about themselves, despite their upbringing.
Yes, a child who hears positivity and is encouraged at home is more times than not going to have a rich sense of self. Is that always the case? Of course not.
So, as parents, how do we get our children to think for themselves? How do we get our children to set goals?
One line in the book really caught my eye as being not only factual but beautiful. I'll paraphrase but the effect is:
"The nature of self-evaluation has a profound effect on your thinking process, emotions, desires, values and goals."
Raising children doesn't come with a user's guide or instruction manual. They rely on you. That is a ton of pressure. This book gives us really easy tools to put in our parental tool belt.
But, we are advised that praise, even the well-meant praise, can often come with unexpected reactions. Think about it. How often, when someone compliments you do you stop and say "Yeah, this thing...blah blah blah". Our initial reaction is not to thank them. It is to doubt them, question them and often times make up an excuse. If we, as all-powerful and knowing adults do this, why do we think our kids would be any different?
A solution the book provides, that I didn't even know I was missing was the art of descriptive praise. Descriptive praise is not just saying "Wow! That drawing you did looks great!" it is describing back to the child what you notice. "Wow!! Those clouds, I love the shapes you made. That grass... so many different shades of green. That was a nice touch!" etc,.
Your child will listen to you and start to become aware and appreciative of the elements they themselves created, thus gaining an understanding of their own strengths.
Another solution, Summing it up in ONE word. This is hard for someone like me. I have so many words... I ...must...use...them...all......
I am here to tell you that kids don't always need a rambling diction on things. The most powerful feedback can be often summed up in one or two words.
"That really showed control", "You are a loyal friend', "Way to adapt in a new situation".
Over time, your child will start to use those words when they identify their strengths and weakness as individuals. This is such an attainable concept. Listen and Look. Say what you see and how you feel. They should really write a... oh, wait... They did. (Buy it here.)
As a mom, I love to talk about my children's best qualities. I love letting them know how much I appreciate them. But sometimes, my best attempts can backfire. A big take away for me was that I can make my kid's achievements about me. This might sting a bit but let's pull off the bandaid of knowledge for a second. Here we go!
IT IS NOT IN OUR CHILDREN'S BEST INTEREST WHEN WE TELL THEM "I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT ALL ALONG".
Projecting our own feelings as theirs is not doing us or them any favors. We want to believe our kids can do anything. Don't get me wrong, it is important to support them. However, it is more helpful to your child to hear their accomplishments described to them. Example: "All of your hard work has really paid off!", "Look what you accomplished by putting in the extra hours!" Showing them that the efforts they put in- is what is being rewarded or celebrated. Not your unwavering mom-love that will be there regardless of the effort.
For the parents who do not struggle with giving their kids appropriate praise, kudos to you. This chapter still has so much meat for child-rearing. It addresses children who are afraid to take risks or are afraid of failing. Luckily for me, my kids see a lot of that from their mom. The important thing is, they don't see me quit.
I mentioned earlier, that I didn't think I would have a breakthrough in this chapter. That it was just old tricks for this old-ish dog. What I did find, is that I offer kindness and encouragement for others all day long, but I often leave myself out of the equation. A not so unique situation for us parents. Previous chapters have shown us that kids more times than not mirror the behaviors they see. In order for any of these tools to work, my behavior and methods of operating need to be adjusted too. The good news is, I am finding ways to be kinder to myself. With that comes offering myself the encouragement and praise that I happen to deserve.
If you would like to connect and continue the conversation, I encourage you to join #TheMJBookClub on Wednesdays via @TheMommyJane on Instagram Live. The wisdom and camaraderie that her @TheMommyMJ are providing are beneficial to mothers and women everywhere! Hope to see you in the chat section - 6 pm PST/9 pm EST /8 pm CST