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Being careful with praise

Lately, I've been thinking very carefully about how I talk to my children. They're in the "look at me" phase where they want my constant attention. They're also getting old enough to be more aware of both positive and negative opinion, sensitive to criticism, and they know their own feelings and the emotions of others. My son and I have had several very heartfelt and genuine conversations about his dislike for raised voices. Almost daily, we have a small chat about the help he still needs with his shirt and his need to remind me to be very careful with his head when dressing. Sometimes he forgets. Sometimes I forget. We help each other to remember.

My daughter, especially, prides herself on being cute and pretty. She's very much the little girl who loves baby animals, pink fairy wings, girly dresses, and hugs and kisses. It's made me very aware of how I praise her and how I communicate with her. I'm trying to be better about my affections being diverse. By that, I mean I'm trying to make sure that she understands my approval of her and her value is more than just a small moment of cuteness. Yes, you're precious sometimes. But you're also so much more. I try to be aware when she does something smart, clever, funny, honest, independent, responsible, caring, skillful, etc.. If we want to raise women who value those things in others and themselves, it needs to start with fathers who see them as all of those and more.

My son is sort of a case study in change. He still loves when we watch him play and be busy and active. He wants you to kick a ball with him and tackle him and "make a bridge" for his trucks and trains. But, over the last few months, he's also become quite affectionate. Something we love, make clear, and try to reinforce. He now gives hugs and kisses and says "I love you." Which was not always the case. It's the same story as his sister though. Every time I praise him for his quickness, agility, brains, and skill, I also try to keep in mind that I want him to value friendship and caring and being considerate and helpful and patient and understanding.

As parents, it's also important that we pick moments in our own behavior where we could be more or less the traits we want our kids to demonstrate. If we want to raise children who have well-balanced and healthy attitudes about themselves and those around them, my first goal is to focus on myself. My kids will learn from watching me. They repeat behaviors and words. They're like little monkeys sometimes, in that way.

Be careful what you become as a parent because you're very likely to see it reflected back in the mirror that is your offspring.