Some time ago, in some insignificant brochure, in a text addressed to parents of early school children, I read the sentence: “Praise is the responsibility of parents (adult guardians) towards their children.” I focused on the strong word “duty.” At first it made me amaze – “that’s it?”, And then delight – “that’s right!”
Is it a parent’s responsibility to praise children?
Baby development is a long-term process that starts from the first days of life. First of all, a child needs a sense of security (unconditional love, acceptance and understanding), but also challenges (experiencing the world in a whole range of sensations). Balance between these areas of development, it gives the child a sense of stability and freedom, supports the motivation to learn new things, opens them to relationships and building bonds that are so significant in adult life.
By praising the child, the parent makes him feel that he is with him, supports success (whatever it is), appreciates the effort put into activity, emphasizes the joy of learning and experiencing, and thus helps the child build high self-esteem and sense of value. It is a strong foundation for adult life. And earlier, when the turbulent time of teenage years comes, it can also be a protective shield against mistakes that can affect a child’s quality of life. I am thinking of all those young people who, experiencing mood swings (seemingly natural at this age), can support themselves on the basis of a solid foundation of self-esteem, high self-esteem and a strong conviction that they are loved. Can you give your child more?
Is it possible to “overdo” praising a child?
The most glaring example of the belief that praise can hurt is the story of a sibling in my class teacher. I once heard from one of the mothers: “And I do not praise my children all the time, because it bothers them. Healthy discipline, clear requirements, and consistency are the best methods of raising children to be strong and successful people. Praise won’t get them because it makes children weak. Are you sure?
I think that parents’ concerns are related to the stereotype of “stress-free upbringing”, understood as upbringing without making demands and allowing a child to break social rules. And this is not what this upbringing is about. Praising a child does not exclude setting boundaries and educating them to adhere to social norms. I would even say that praising a child makes it easier for them to understand the validity of boundaries and encourages them to adhere to established rules. Self-confidence and confidence in his abilities allow him to think about what can be done to solve the problem, deal with difficulties, pressure, using his resources. Many of the difficult behaviors of children are defensive reactions of the body when it is put under excessive pressure. Self-confidence, which is also strengthened by receiving praise from adults, strengthens the child by holding back the emotional responses mentioned above.
How does a child who is not praised feel about himself?
Praise strengthens the child, confirming in him the belief that he is loved and accepted as he is. If these praises are missing, they will be solicitous. The longer a child fights for the praise of his parents, the more the risk increases that he will build a conviction about the conditionality of his parents’ love, and this will affect his emotional development. Lack of praise or scant praise for a great – in the child’s opinion – achievement builds the conviction that parents love them only when they behave as they want, e.g. they achieve better and better results, win rewards.
But not every child has the resources to make a lot of these spectacular achievements. If, in spite of all efforts, he cannot cope, and there is no support from his parents, there is no praise for effort, for commitment, it is easy to have low self-esteem. And from here it is only a step to destructive thinking that strikes a sense of self-esteem. You will be thinking, “I’m too stupid to learn to solve such problems”, “I’m good for nothing”, “I’m weak”. And this is dangerous because when it is difficult, when the child does not bear the pressure, fails to cope with the parents’ (or school’s) expectations, when – in his own opinion – is not worth love, he will reach for solutions that will make him feel better and are closest to him. . What?
Most often it starts with rebellion and breaking the rules to let adults know that the conditions they set are not appropriate for the child. These will be educational problems at school (arrogance in behavior, refusal to perform tasks in class and at home, disregard of duties, conflicts with peers and adults) and at home (problems in relations with siblings and parents, reluctance to spend time together, avoiding private talks ). The natural need for acceptance and love can cause a child to become involved in dangerous behaviors, close relationships with people for whom it will be just prey.
How to praise a child?
There can be many forms of expressing appreciation for a child’s actions. Here are some examples.
- Statements: “Awesome! How beautiful you did it! ”,“ Oh! I can see that you are very pleased! Congratulations! ”,“ You’ve worked hard, huh? But it was worth it, because the effect is great, what do you think? ”“ Are you happy with the result? Because I’m impressed! ”.
What do the above messages have in common? They let the child know that I praise, but emphasize the child’s participation in this praise. It is important for the child to feel the author of success that we appreciate her / his effort in the work.
- Applause: the child experiences the joy of achievement, feeling special. It gives a sense of importance and uniqueness, which strengthens the building of mental resilience.
- Show attention: actively listening to the child’s account of working on a project (nodding, using exclamation points: “Oh!”, “Come on, Oh!”, Amazing! “, Maintaining eye contact with the storyteller).
- Interest: “How is the work going?”, “Are you satisfied?”, “You will present the results, I’m very curious …”.
- Gestures: especially when words may be disturbing (eg during a presentation, during a group performance or other activity), a form of praise may be a thumbs up and a wide smile combined with the observation of the child’s struggle over a challenge.
- Sharing the child’s joy and self with others. But “praising a child” is not the same as “praising a child.” When we talk about the success of a son or daughter to family or friends, it is good to ensure that the child can tell about it or present the results. However, the sensitivity of the child must be taken into account. Some children will be happy to present a school performance at their grandfather’s birthday in the presence of numerous relatives, while others will react with protest and various emotional reactions. It is better to warn the child about this possibility and get his approval. This will calm emotions, strengthen the child’s confidence in himself and allow him to mentally prepare for the event. The same applies to praising other achievements: the more opportunities there are for a child to tell about them, the stronger the conviction that they are their author – it will have a reinforcing effect. On the other hand, situations in which parents talk about children’s successes in their presence, but as if without their participation, may bring the idea that the parent is praising him, so if there is a reason for praise, the parent loves, and what if there is no such reason?
I love, so I praise
Building a child’s high self-esteem and strong self-esteem is a long-term process. Praise is – in my opinion – one of its essential elements. But there is another aspect that is worth paying attention to: praise is a joy on both sides of the family dialogue. This joy builds bonds, makes all of us stronger and more resistant to everyday difficulties.
The five-year-old boy I know shared with his aunt his conviction: “You know, Auntie? My parents always dreamed of having a son like me ”. I wish all parents reading this text that their children will feel that they are their parents’ dream come true.