Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Accomplished, Proficient and Skilled Children

(Please, please note the sarcasm of the title. Upon further reading it may make sense...)

Fairly early on in my parenting,  I received a free magnet with 101 ways to praise your children. It had all sorts of phrases on it, I suppose to add variety to the very quick and often over-used phrase, “good job.”

I threw it away last week. It sat on my fridge for YEARS, was never really good at actually holding a paper in place, and was not anything I referred to since probably 2001 when maybe I told Megan, “Her driveway chalk art looked sensational.”

For years now, I have felt that we as a society, specifically my generation, are over-praising and rewarding our children. Although I am a huge fan of making sure our children feel successful, accomplished, and have self-confidence and self-esteem, sometimes I think too many parents are rolling out the red carpet (so to speak) for anything from a single goal during a soccer game to a 100% score on a homework assignment.

Now, I’m not talking about situations where a lot of effort was put into it or a goal was set and reached. For example…

One of my children is a fabulous speller. The spelling words brought home on Monday are rarely looked at, and the child has yet to get below 100% on a spelling test. I have another child, who is not a great speller. That child (as a motivator) is given the chance to earn money per correctly spelled words. There have been times this school year that one child’s score of 12/20 received more whooping and hollering in our house than the 100% score of another.  

Lest you become concerned about the (100%) child not receiving a lot of praise, we choose to focus their praise on the areas of their life that they succeed after putting extra time, effort, and energy into something.
See what I mean? It shouldn't be about praising for the sake of praising. It is praising/rewarding when genuine effort is exerted or goals are set and achieved.

It’s probably no different than the fact we don’t shout any congratulatory phrases when the 14 year old “wakes up dry” in the morning, but we do when the 5 year old does. 

Mike and I were both raised in families where verbalization of praise and compliments were kept to the minimum. Early on in our marriage, we decided (among other things) we wanted to parent differently in that area. Although our intentions with our children are deliberate, probably somewhat due to our upbringing, we have equaled out to be fairly “average” when it comes to praising our children. We certainly have room to improve, and recently took on a new phrase shared by my friend "Raise the praise, reduce the criticize."

Perhaps some would argue that we’re way off base, but I am concerned that children seem to be rewarded and praised for everything these days.  I think more parents need to let their children “just be.”  

Currently, both Mike and I serve in the children’s organization in our church and are in the children’s meetings every Sunday. Before that though, we did not always attend every talk, prayer, or scripture recitation that our children gave. Although we clearly support our children, and have practiced numerous scriptures and talks in the week before, we have chosen not to be the parents in the back of the room giving a great big thumbs up, or recording with our cell-phones.  We make every effort to be sure our children know we support them, love them and encourage them, by telling them and showing them.

Perhaps I am alone in my thinking that praise can be overdone.  I get that everyone parents differently, I really do. I just can’t help but become concerned sometimes that a generation of children are becoming entitled, cocky and self-centered. And I think a large part of it comes from rewards and praise for every little action and effort.

I want my children to know that praise and rewards are given for good effort and hard work. Which perhaps explains why I don’t need a magnet suggesting 101 ways to respond to a cowboy and horse drawn on a piece of paper or every school-paper that flies out of my child’s backpack.

More children today need to understand that the very best praise or reward they can receive, is the personal satisfaction of a job well done or the confidence that their efforts really made a difference.  


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