Praising your child is an important part of conscious parenting and key to nurturing a positive, loving, friendly child.
By Sho Pa
If you recall the people from your childhood days whom you remember most fondly, a great many, if not all, of them would be people from whom you have received praise, appreciation and encouragement at some point of your life. It could be for the way you are or for something you had done. We all appreciate positive affirmation from others. It does wonders for our self-esteem and sense of worth. It makes us feel liked and likeable. It encourages us to do better and boosts our confidence.
There’s no age-bar, of course, as far as praising someone is concerned, but it is particularly important for children. A child’s self-image is heavily dependent on the sort of messages it receives from its significant others, especially from its parents and teachers. A child who receives ample praise gains ample confidence. Praise encourages him to develop the talent or quality he receives praise for and to excel in it. When he sees others appreciating him, he learns to appreciate himself. Receiving praise leads him to regard others as friends, as people whom he can love and trust.
Praising your child, then, is an important part of conscious parenting and key to nurturing a positive, loving, friendly child. Please don’t spare any opportunity to praise him or her. You don’t have to praise your child only for some ‘big achievement’, like coming topping her class or coming first in a sports competition. You could praise her for all sorts of so-called ‘small’ things, too”for a joke she has cracked or a poem she has written, an interesting question she asks about the world or a new hairstyle, for keeping her room tidy or for speaking politely to visitors. Sometimes, you don’t need any excuse at all in order to praise your child. You can just praise her for being her! From time to time, you could say to her, “We are so fortunate to have you as our child!” It’s amazing what a powerful impact such words can have on your child’s bonding with you and for her picture of herself.
In the beginning, some people might find praising their children difficult, because they are not used to it. They may not have received praise from their parents when they were young, and so they may find it not easy to act differently with their children. In such cases, they might need to ‘fake it till they make it’! Praising their children might seem to them to be forced. It may not come spontaneously. But if they persist, it can develop into a habit, and soon they will be able to discern things in their children that they genuinely feel call for praise.
Boosting Positive Self Image
Remember, each time you praise your child you are boosting her positive self-image and helping her grow into a better, more confident, creative, happy and loving person. At the same time, you are strengthening your relationship with her and she will love you more for it. There’s almost nothing like genuinely-meant praise and encouragement to make your bond with your child warmer and more loving and secure.
In regularly praising your child, you mustn’t go overboard, though. Praising your child doesn’t mean flattering her, or faking it when you think he doesn’t merit it. It doesn’t mean not being firm when you need to or being irresponsibly indulgent. But even as you sometimes have to correct your child, you must not forget to get back to ‘praise mode’ as soon as you can. In this way, you are conveying to your child that you love and care for him, and that even your being firm in correcting him is for his own good.
Blame or Condemnation
The opposite of praise is blame or condemnation. Sadly, a great too many parents operate in that mode.
“I said don’t do this!’
“How many times do I have to repeat myself? Are you dumb or something?”
“Why did you do that?”
“You never listen to anyone! You always want your way!”
“Do as you are told and don’t argue!”
“Don’t be silly!”
“You are so selfish! So disobedient!”
“You are useless! You can’t do anything properly!”
“I told you so!
“I’m fed up of you!”
“Don’t answer back or I’ll slap you!”
“You are so ungrateful”after all that we’ve done for you!”
“You are a blot on the family’s name!”
“I said do this!”
“Listen to me! I’m 25 years older than you!”
“How dare you!”
“Why did you do this!”
“I wish I hadn’t given birth to you!”
This is how such people routinely speak to their children. Some parents behave with their children this way because this is how their parents behaved with them. They know no better, or do not want to know better. Some think that being strict and stern with their children like this is the best, or even the only, way to get them to listen to them and behave ‘properly’. “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, they believe. The only way to ‘control’ their children, they think, is through fear and punishment. You will rarely, if ever, find them speaking a word of praise about or to their kids.
Deep Sense of Insecurity
This way of ‘managing’ children is entirely counter-productive. It might serve as a power boost for parents and it might seem to make things easier for them for a while, but it plays havoc as far as their children are concerned. Typically, children brought up this way turn into rebels, who grow to detest their parents. Some become extremely introverted. Not receiving enough love, appreciation and praise from their parents, they may suffer from a deep sense of inadequacy and insecurity. They might find relating to other people difficult, viewing the world as a hostile place. They may develop major inferiority complexes and can be easily prone to depression and even suicidal tendencies. Even as adults they may find coping with life very difficult and may be very unsure of themselves. They may be racked by all sorts of fears. Other children can react to a lack of praise, encouraged and love from their parents in just the opposite way”by becoming hyper-aggressive. A desire for revenge for the parental neglect they suffered in childhood may lead them, when they grow up, to take to crime. Either way, children who don’t receive enough parental praise generally grow to hate their parents, and, once they are economically independent, have, or want to have, as little as possible to do with them.
Often, parents don’t praise their children not because there’s nothing in them that’s worthy of praise but because parents aren’t observant enough. Every child has at least one quality, gifted to her or him by God, that is praiseworthy, and which parents can discern, if they care to look. If you get into the habit of looking out for things in our children that we can praise (this for many of us is something that needs to be conscious cultivated), it can do wonders for the sort of people our children will grow into and for the quality of our relations with them. n