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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Raising Excellent Kids in an Insane World~ Part 2

   So, what is praise and how might we use it more effectively?

One expert called it "sunshiny, spiritual vitamins for your toddler." A nice turn of phrase perhaps, but it doesn't tell us what praise is. First, praise is a tool, which, like all tools has its place in our toolbox. Next, it's not just a word, but an activity. It seems the act of praising is one of approval, admiration, respect, gratitude and blessing. Through the activity of praising, we express a higher sense of thankfulness and a connection with something greater then ourselves.
We may want to consider using this valuable tool at certain times, in a targeted fashion. What we don't want to do is continually and unnecessarily praise, which may have as a result in our kids, a diminished ability to persist because our children aren't getting their "daily dosage of rewards" or praise.
From what I've observed, it's not a tool we should use mindlessly. It appears that the down side of praise is that it can spark a child's attachment toward something, when really accomplishment is what we're seeking - not attachment. We tend to over praise, and use it more as a way of saying good job. We also tend toward using it nonspecifically and at any old time.
Are we "praise addicts?" Hmmmm ...
So how might we all use this tool of praise - so connected in our daily life - with the activity of raising our little one's self-esteem? When our children are attempting to accomplish something and are developing strategies to attain their goals, we might want to consider praising their specific action. So, it could be targeted praise regarding listening well, concentrating effectively, using the right amount of effort, choosing the appropriate emotion (calm instead of anger), choosing patience over impatience, or making a good kick in soccer.
In other words, target the praise so it's not a general "good job" or "nice work" or "terrific." When we see that our child needs to refocus on something that is proving a little difficult, like sharing, detaching from a parent, etc. We can use targeted praise to compliment their strength or their sharing once they have accomplished the goal.
As we observe our children accomplishing their tasks, we might want to think about diminishing the praise and then having it fully subside. Once our child can accomplish the activity, praise might not be needed any more, even though the self-esteem enthusiasts might disagree.
Be specific. We might learn that our children don't need praise anywhere near as much as we feel we want to give it. I think we have to stop compensating for our anxiousness about the fragility of our children's psyche. By using praise in a targeted way and then eliminating it once our kids have shown, over a period of time true accomplishment at their goal, we may actually be helping them learn persistence. They may learn how to succeed because we aren't constantly giving them the reward of general praise in a misguided attempt to elevate their self-esteem. We are simply using the tool of praise, sparingly and in a targeted way to help stimulate them toward accomplishment.
On a final note, the blessing side to praise-where we as parents are truly grateful for the role we have been given in the healthy development of our children. Where our "words" of praise convey a more powerful sense of our humbleness. This is where the activity of praising becomes a deeper activity, one that touches on our offering of inner excellence and grace to our little ones.Let me know your thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment here.
Frank Diaz can be reached at raisingexcellentkids@gmail.com.


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