Lavish Them with Praise

In the wonderful “experiment” of parenting that I’ve been practicing for almost 21 years now, I have found that when given with sincerity, compliments are very powerful for children. This is especially true in an area where the child is unique and different. I know there are theories out there that indicate lavish praise sets kids up for disappointment later in life when they don’t receive it from others.  But I’m not talking about praise for expected behaviors like following parental instructions or not jabbing objects into the family dog’s eyes.  I mean sincerely appreciating them for their good qualities.  Confidence is such a scarcity these days among children, teens and young adults.  If they don’t love themselves, how is anyone else going to find them worthy of love?

My son was not exactly the model student in structured learning environments.  He was not disrespectful, but we would receive calls from his teachers because he would habitually roll and drop his pencil on the floor, for the apparent purpose of having to get up and retrieve it. This and other such disruptive behaviors became common place in his earlier academic life.  So, did we lavish him with praise whenever he did NOT roll his pencil? Of course not, that was expected behavior.  But my son was quite skilled at hitting a baseball, riding a skateboard and having an unusual level of empathy.  These were the things we praised him for, lavishly.  Also, it wasn’t his ability we praised him for as much as it was his dedication to improving his skill or showing empathy to someone less fortunate.  These were aspects he had total control over.  I wish I could say I was blessed with this skill from the moment of his first conference, however, first, I had to let go of my own insecurities as a parent in order to praise him appropriately.  So for the purpose of having a “re-do”, we had another child.  My daughter is a very pretty girl.  Do we praise her beauty? Not so much.  She didn’t DO anything, she just happened to be blessed with an outward beauty.  So what does she “do”?  She generally does well in school, but not from a lack of effort.  She’s very family-oriented and considerate of others’ feelings.  These are the attributes we praise her for.  Lavishly.

Are my kids perfect?  Nope, but they are still awesome.  The best part of all of this is that they are so comfortable in their individuality, that unlike many of their peers, they have no problem going against the grain.  They have made mistakes and will make more, but they confidently march to their own drummer.  They unapologetically embrace their identity. You may be picturing my kids stuffed in lockers and given daily wedgies, but you’d be wrong.  On the contrary, I think others are attracted to them, not because they happen to be good looking kids, but because their confidence shines through.  Thus far, both of them have managed to hold off on the typical “rites of passage” teens typically have explored by their age or at least postpone those milestones until they feel more in control of themselves.  They are totally ok with being “behind” their friends and classmates.  They just own it.  Lavish your kids with praise and help them grow to love and be confident in their own identity.  Tell them how great they are.  Then watch as they conquer the world following their own set of rules!

I’m Rubber You’re Glue…For Grown-ups

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you”.  Remember saying that or some similar discourse to a child who was saying mean things to you?  I’ve found it to be equally true in what you think as well.  I recall working for a particularly mean-spirited supervisor.  This was a person I had such little respect for and really wanted to say, “Just so you know, I think you suck…hard.”  But being a reasonably sensible person even when instigated, I just thought it, and many more colorful things to boot.  I deplore the word and emotion “hate” and never wish harm on another person (OK, I may have at one time wished a 2am stubbed toe on the metal frame of a bed, but never with a lasting injury).

As I felt all sense of power and control slipping through my fingers with this person, I would reclaim it daily by thinking even more outrageous, insulting and demeaning statements each time I caught sight of them.  I found it especially satisfying when I had the opportunity to think these things “at” them while directly looking in their eyes with a contrite smile on my face.  But as time went on, I found myself even more unhappy. Returning to this place day after day, my fantastical one-sided colloquy getting more and more bitter at every interaction with this demonized supervisor didn’t seem to be serving me at all.  (Inhale here). This introspection led me to realize I wasn’t “winning”, in fact, I had added my own mind to this person’s army.  By living in my head with this person, in battle, on such a regular basis, I was not only tiring myself out, but I was creating a negative, acidic environment in the one place I had sought refuge.  My imagination.  I was engaging in a full-on, Pay-Per-View worthy boxing match where I played both parts in the ring.  So my left hook was firmly planted on my own right cheek.  In writing this, I’d like to say that I immediately turned my negative thoughts into positive recognition about how great this person was at playing the political game or developing their loyal following or even how much they loved their dog.  But let’s not be ridiculous, this is supposed to be about authenticity.

You may or may not have noticed that I don’t go by the name “Dalai Lama”, “Mother Theresa”, “Nelson Mandela” or “Jesus”.  All wonderful souls mind you, but let’s just say I haven’t evolved to that level of lightness just yet.  What I can say is that I started (with great effort) looking at this individual and searching for anything positive to associate with them like, “the teal in that top is my favorite color” or “their laughter is bringing joy to someone right now”.  Some days I could only find “at least their exhale of carbon dioxide is helping a plant grow somewhere”, but progress is progress after all. Following only one week of this, I honestly felt better.  Really.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t start viewing this supervisor with loving adoration, but I did feel more love in my heart.  I don’t know why it worked other than to say that when you fill your mind with more love, everything else seems to follow.  Your mind is a powerful machine, make sure you are using it to your advantage and in a way that brings you joy and love…and screw the crappy supervisors of the world.  They’ll just have to figure that out on their own.

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email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com