It’s a lot easier to shout, blame, give out, and get angry when our kids do something considered to be "bold", unwanted, or frustrating. We react emotionally and those reactions can be stronger than our more placid and happy feelings when they do something well-meaning.
Our kids see the power in these reactions which may not have the result we are looking for. But why is it important to recognise and acknowledge the good behaviour and how can we nurture it?
Encouraging Good Behaviour
Nurturing our child’s good behaviour will encourage a kinder, more empathetic side of their nature. In fact, research has shown that children respond well to positive praise and guidance from their parents meaning we should look closely at the positive things they do. But there’s a catch!
Praising our children in the form we know the most, is not necessarily the right route to take. For example, praising scores on tests can lead to performance anxiety. Praising good behaviours can cause our children to "perform" in a manner that is expected of them. And routinely praising our children can mean when we don’t praise them, it can be a shock to their system and all of our praising efforts can be counter-productive.
Find The Balance
There are substantial arguments for the case against overly praising our children. In essence, either the message gets lost or we may continually praise to encourage or reward good behaviour which reflects on our parenting. The idea is to find a balance between the right amount of praise, at the right time, and for the right circumstances. Kids should not be looking to "gain points" with parents for their behaviour, but to understand what is a good and right thing to do and for them to recognise their talents and abilities.
Encouragement Versus Praise
Praising our children can become performative, for both us and for our children. While praise builds our children’s self-esteem; encouragement will build on their independence, decision making, and abilities. Praise ends their involvement; while encouragement ensures they persevere with their skills. Praise embodies the outcome or the result; while encouragement focuses on their effort and improvement. Finally, praise can often feel as though a child is better than another, which is not the case, but it isolates them in a congratulatory bubble; while encouragement will focus on the job at hand and what they have done to achieve the outcome.
Next time you find yourself about to praise your child, get down on their level and be specific when praising their efforts. If you are praising their drawing, comment on the colours they chose, how they coloured in the lines, or how they got Dad’s beard just right. Again, it’s a wonderfully tricky balance of broadening our children’s understanding of what they can achieve.