Reading an interesting parenting book at the mo’, aptly titled “Children: the challenge” (too right!). It was written by Rudolf Dreikurs in 1964, but seriously is more modern and ‘right on’ than many of the simplified (yet oh so lucrative…) behaviorist tendencies of today.
One thing I’m ruminating on right now is the difference he draws between encouragement and praise. There has been quite a lot of writing recently about how not to praise children too much, lest they become praise ‘junkies’ or ‘addicted to praise’ or, even worse, won’t do anything unless praised/rewarded. My response to this has been that limiting praise in this way is like the icing on the cake of perfect parenting in a perfect environment. In other words most kids in this world don’t get enough positive feedback, so it’s a bit irresponsible to suggest limiting it even more. Children need love, praise, positive feedback and encouragement in abundance to feel worthy and secure.
Now I’ve read this book, it has clarified my stance a bit. Rather then praise, what we want to aim for is encouragement, and plenty of it.
Praise: Well done! Brilliant! You are amazing/fantastic/the bees knees etc. (I do this all the time…)
encouragement: You did it! You must feel proud of yourself! I see a tidy room, how does that feel?! You got all A’s, I’m glad you enjoy learning so much.
encouragement is literally ‘giving courage’, so not over protecting a child to the point that they feel they cannot do things. Let a baby try and try and try again to scramble up the step, without helping (you did it!). Letting the small child pour that milk even if it spills – the sense of satisfaction of doing it for herself outweighs the wastage of a bit of milk (you poured the milk all by yourself!), with practice she sill get it right but not if discouraged the whole time. Trusting that older child to go to the shops alone. Giving kids the thumbs up for things they may not be able to do yet and not spoiling it with a ‘be careful’ (suggesting they will fail). Giving courage, having courage in them, having faith in them and transmitting it. You can do it. En-couragement.
I still think that this technique is a bit ‘parenting PhD’, it’s like there are so many other things to be worrying about, can we really worry about the way we word positive feedback to our kids…yawn. I think there’s no harm in bigging up your kids from time to time, showing them with words and hugs that they are the best things since sliced bread.
But I like the idea of encouragment…giving them courage, strength and skills to feel “I can do it”! Bit of both scenario, methinks.