We can so easily get caught up in the concept of praising our kids and making them feel good that we dont stop to think of the repercussions of our words. What are the consequences of ill-timed praise? I believe it lowers our childrens standards the standard that they hold in their own heart.
Lets look at it . When a child is given a task be it an academic task or a moral task in the end, they know in their hearts to what standard they have been successful. They know the attitude of their heart, they know if they did well, or if they did the barest necessity. Then parent (or adult) comes along and says, Good job! This confirms that the standard that they performed to is a standard good enough for mum and dad or other adult.
The praise (though intended for good) actually confirms a lower standard than is excellent.
In the past a lot of parenting styles would be labelled, these days, as authoritative or legalistic. This style of parenting would have said very little when the child did succeed and said very much when the parent was disappointed. I wonder if our ill-timed praise has come as a reaction, trying to find a balance to a more relational style parenting.
I believe the pendulum has swung too far.
The balance is in seeing what praise can do for a child. Praise confirms the standard, confirms the moral rightness of an action rather than just making a child feel good about themself.
The idea of making a child feel good about themself is slightly out of whack too what does really make a child feel good about themself? I believe it is when they know they are doing right morally right. When they can serve others instead of putting themselves first they will feel good about themselves and who they are. When they stand up for a principle, even against the crowd, they will feel good about themselves, true to themselves. Our praise, when it is aimed at anything less than the standard the children are aiming for only sends mixed messages.
To find the balance between no praise and excessive (damaging) praise is to see that we have many tools to train the hearts of our children to the moral standard we desire for them. In wanting to do better than the authoritarian, strong, silent parent style, or the over the top reactionary parent, we need to realise that praise is not our only option.
If a child doesnt quite reach the standard you or even himself is aiming for then there is room for training and that is a good thing. Praising without the words to redirect them will only lower the standard. I am not at all saying that a word of encouragement isnt what is required but if we leave it at that, if we leave it at Wow! That is fantastic! when you really desire more for your child, how are they going to reach for more?
THis is very true! Many parents do not praise their children at all, however empty praise means nothing. When your child works hard to do something, praise his effort whether or not his effort shows in the end. When your child doesn’t do his best, lead him to do so.
God wants our best. He required that from offerings in Biblical times. He requires it of us today.
My dd is very bright and in private school was never really asked to do her best because they knew she was smart. When I brought her home, I instituted a star chart that rewarded my dd’s efforts in doing her best in order to train her to do so. It took about a year for her to get the idea and about two to do it with any consistancy. She is now 16 and always goes the extra mile!
I agree. Ineffective and excessive praise can actually discourage a child. Simply saying, “Good job!” also does not always quite tell the child what they did a good job on. Here’s a balance I found interesting from my parent training days…
Effective praise tells a child specifically what they did well and how it will benefit them. Instead of saying, “Great job!” you say, “I really like how you stuck with this project despite the difficulties. That takes diligence. When we don’t give up, it is pleasing to God and helps us accomplish goals.”
The thoughts in the last comment really struck a cord with me – adding the character trait to the praise really does take your appreciation of the child’s efforts to a different level – you are affirming something much stronger than a good job – you are building their internal strength, you are showing them that you value character, you are giving them something to hold onto in tough times up ahead in their own life. Thanks Dana for reminding me to connect the two.