If you follow my blog you may know that I am currently working on me, and as I work on me, and working on being a better parent is part of that. I hope to share with you some of the nuggets of wisdom I gain along my quest. This article is about one of them. I hope you enjoy.
I have read a million articles about how to use praise/rewards for your children rather than straight out discipline. However, I never realized that by using praise incorrectly I could be raising my kids to be so focussed on “winning” the forget that it’s about having fun playing the game.
When it comes to me I have to say, I am definitely all about results. I have to be the best at everything, no matter what. What’s worse is that I will often do what ever it takes to be the best, even if it means doing something wrong like sacrificing my own health or well-being or negatively impacting others. While being like this has benefitted me in my life, I know that it is not the right way to live, and I have toned it down over the years.
It never occurred to me that I was raising my children to be just like me. Firstly, because I didn’t think it was something that could be taught. I figured it was just my personality/ brain chemistry that made me the way I was. Secondly, I thought that by using praise and rewards to help influence my children rather than fear and punishment I was raising my children properly. It never occurred to me that praise can actually be detrimental if you give it in the wrong way.
Focussing on the effort instead of the outcome.
When my son hands me a piece of paper with a bunch of scribbles on it, I felt good because I would acknowledge his master piece and tell him how beautiful it was. In doing that, I was rewarding the final product, teaching him that its all about the end goal. What I should have been doing is saying something like, “wow, that looks like you put a lot of effort into it” or “look at all the different colours you used to make the picture beautiful”. It is subtle difference but in the latter I am praising the act of drawing the picture, rather than the final picture itself. That way he can learn to take pride in his efforts, rather than the final accomplishment.
Giving Praise Along The Way
When I would ask my son to clean up his toys, I would wait, and then when he was finished, I would thank him. “Great job buddy, thanks for cleaning up all your toys”. Instead, a better way to do it could be to watch him and nodding approvingly, or give words of encouragement. Then when he is finished, ask him about what he did. “Wow, all the toys are away. Did you figure out where everything goes?” This way, they are taking pride in describing to you the journey of cleaning their toys rather than in just the final outcome.
Focus on “you did” instead of “I like”
Again, turn things inwards on your child. Let them take pride in what they did. By focussing on what you like, ie, the finished product, it teaches them to look towards others for praise and positive reinforcement rather than taking pride in their own efforts. For example, instead of saying “I like that you cleaned up your room” which could send the signal that “mommy likes me only when I am being good” etc., say “You cleaned up all the toys! The room looks so clean and beautiful! Thank you!”
Say Thank You
Rather than the generic “good job” saying thank you conveys gratitude more than praise, which will help your children to value the jobs they did, rather than looking for the praise at the end. While you are at it, always try to be specific in your types of praise. Kids really value the specificity because it shows that you are really focussed on them and paying attention to what they are doing. They will feel more empowered.
I hope you find some of these tips useful. If you would like more information please read some of the articles I read.