What’s Wrong with Appreciating Children?
– Khadeeja Rana
Nothing. Yes, NOTHING is wrong with appreciating children. So why don’t we do it often? Because we think that it will spoil them, make them arrogant, narcissistic, overconfident brats and what not. If you think this way then here’s the thing; You should be questioning your own capabilities of appreciating effectively rather than the child’s abilities and worth as to whether he deserves it. Believe it or not, a misbehaved child is an under-appreciated child. So next time you come across a bad behavior; think twice, thrice, several times before punishing further as you will only be adding fuel to the fire.
The key to appreciating effectively is to make the praise as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “you are a good girl/boy”, say, “You did ____ thing and it was good. Your ____ behavior was nice.” By not generalizing, you are directing the child towards exactly what should be repeated in the future. Children are keen learners, and they are likely to pick up the cues that parents/teachers give them. We might often be giving appreciation but let’s be honest, do we appreciate what the child could be, instead of who they are? *food for thought* Another question, do children appreciate us for who we are unconditionally? To leave no ambiguities, consider this:
…my kids accept me just the way I am. Even when I make a really boring lunch, or I take a few minutes of dragging my feet to get to changing that diaper. They don’t inspect the thoroughness of my sweeping job, or hate me because I yell at them sometimes. Its kind of humbling really. The trick is, being willing to be pleased. If an adult guest had been helping around the house and used the wrong broom, would that mom have corrected her the same way she did her daughter? If I had an adult friend who requested a snack would I roll my eyes and tell them to wait until lunch? Do I appreciate my kids just as they are?
– Excerpt from an article at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/permissiontolive/
Another point to note is to be objective while appreciating. When you say “I like it when you do ____” you are basically, unknowingly teaching children to live life according to your standards, to spend their lives trying to please you, him, her, other people, society, the world. Whereas you should be providing a guide of what’s right and wrong and fostering independence but not be essentially raising a bunch of unhappy people-pleasers (ironic because all people can never be always pleased with you) A life lived for the sake of fulfilling others standards is a surefire way to fall into dissatisfaction, depression, negativity, resentment, anxiety etc etc etc.
Most South Asian parents assume that less appreciation will give more room for improvement, trust me nothing boosts a child’s morale and self esteem than a significant elder appreciating them. It is a great motivating tool, otherwise you would not see HR managers urging employers to give more positive feedback to increase employee satisfaction. So there is no justification to be measly in appreciating children.
While offering praise, make sure its genuine, say it with conviction, like you really mean it (and mean it too). Look the child in the eye, hold them when you appreciate them, it fosters genuineness and warmth; come down to their level (both figuratively and literally) and wait for miracles to happen.