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!

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