Are We Using Too Much Praise?
by Anne Andrew (excerpted from What They Don’t Teach in Prenatal Class: The Key to Raising Trouble-Free Kids and Teens).
Do you do what you do to win approval from our bosses, peers, spouse, other family members, and even your children?
When that approval is not forthcoming do you beat yourself up wondering what you did wrong or reminding yourself that once again you failed?
How can we raise our children so that they are not praise-dependent?
We need to teach children to find approval within themselves. They’ll be constantly looking outside themselves for approval, as long as they are trying to establish their own worth instead of being sure that they have all the worth they will ever need. So, be careful with praise. Having a strong sense of Inherent Worth is crucial in countering the tendency we have of looking for and finding evidence that our underlying negative beliefs are true.
How will I encourage my child if I don’t use praise?
If your child brings a painting home from school, you might ask her about the painting—did she enjoy painting it? How did she decide which colors to use? How did it make her feel? Is she pleased with the result? What will she paint next time? These questions will help her to understand her own response to painting. Is this an activity that she enjoys? What are the aspects that are enjoyable?
You’ll learn a lot more about her and help her learn about herself as well. Helping her tune into her feelings about the painting will allow her to process her emotional responses to the painting. Perhaps she was frustrated that she couldn’t get the proportions right or that she couldn’t mix exactly the color she wanted. Feelings of frustration point to an underlying negative belief and this can be countered by reminding her that her Worth is Inherent—it doesn’t depend on how well she paints.
Perhaps she feels fantastic and the picture is exactly how she wanted it to turn out. Then she will be encouraged to continue exploring her creativity through art. It is important that children do the things they want to do because they want to do them—not because we want to live vicariously through our children and reap the rewards of having a child prodigy.
Barbara Coloroso, in her book Kids are Worth It!, cautions parents to be neutral when children bring home report cards: “If you get excited about your child’s performance, connecting his performance with his dignity and worth as a person, you are encouraging him to view mistakes as a negative reflection of himself; something to be denied or blamed on someone else.”
Whether it is an A or a D, simply be curious. That way you’ll help the child to understand his strengths and weaknesses without judging him. If we get excited when a child brings home a high grade, then we are giving the message that high grades make us happy and he may equate getting good grades with being loved. If we are neutral and accepting, he will feel comfortable sharing his mistakes as well as successes and will know that we are there to help and offer suggestions if he needs them.
Begin to notice all the times that you are tempted to use praise, and instead be curious. Don’t stop cold turkey or your children might be confused, but do see how often in a day you use praise automatically. By changing the emphasis from yourreaction to a child’s work to their own reaction to it, you’ll be helping them figure out what they love to do, what are their strengths and their weaker points. You’ll be helping them understand themselves better and they will be freed from the role of making you happy.
How many times did you say “Good job!” today? Tomorrow, catch yourself being tempted to say it and ask a question instead. If the old “Good job!” slips out (as it will) just follow it up with a question. That’s it!
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Book Signing and Talk by the Author on Thursday April 11th, 2019 at 2:00 pm at the Waldman Library at the JCCGV (950 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver, BC). Please call (604) 257 5181 to RSVP.
I know firsthand the emotional and financial costs of having a troubled teenager and I don’t want that to happen to you. That's why I wrote my book What They Don't Teach in Prenatal Class: The Key to Raising Trouble-Free Kids and Teens (available on Amazon).