Reality check

As we watched the DVD last night about the damaging effects of praise (Good job! Way to go! I like that! I’m so proud of you!) Jerry said, “I do that all the time!” “Yeah,” I said, thinking about how I have work to do too.

What hit me at my core was when Vicki made the connection between kids who are in the habit of seeking praise from their parents, and kids who are at risk in adolescence and beyond. Many times these are the same kids. At home they seek outside validation and approval, “Mom, do you like it? Was that good? Watch me again!” And out in the world that can translate into, “Do you like me? Am I good enough for you? Not yet? Maybe if I drink that like you said I should, or take that drug … or take my clothes off and do what you want…Maybe then you’ll like me and think I’m good…”

Scary stuff. And I know it’s true because I remember feeling that way, and I still feel that way sometimes. Vicki calls it an addiction — looking for that next hit of external approval — but each hit you get fades fast and then you want the next one, and the next one.

So one of the best things we can do for our kids is teach them to look inside for validation and approval. Help find that voice inside of them that says, “I’m good enough…I like the way I did that … or no, I’m not happy with that, I’m going to try again.”

Basically what that means is it’s time for me to keep my opinions, judgments, and advice to myself.

Instead, I will begin to consciously replace that with the basics of encouragement. I will:

  • Ask questions (be curious about what they think and feel)
  • Make simple observations (describe what I see and stop there)
  • Acknowledge improvement, progress, and effort (shift focus away from end results)

This is going to take practice. Yesterday Jerry was playing driveway tennis with Ellen and I could hear him: “Good one! Good! Yes! Perfect!” Hmm, maybe we need a code word between us to help catch ourselves. It’s just so ingrained.

But I’m already making progress. This morning Charlotte got up for the bus, got herself ready, opened the door and said, “Bye, Mom!” I came over and said, “Bye, Charlotte!” She looked at me and said, “I have my library books!” I said, “Oh! You won’t be just a browser today! …” And then I stopped and heard the words, ‘Good job!’ in my head. Yep, yesterday that would have just popped out of my mouth as usual. But not today.

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 7: The Art of Encouragement

2 Comments on “Reality check”


  1. […] Praise from your parents is so sweet and tempting. After almost two years of our cutting waaaay back, they still crave it. Remember to resist! (See why.) […]


  2. […] found this quote to be a helpful reminder about the hidden consequences of praise—that it actually morphs into pressure for our kids. I know it seems like they love it and they […]


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