This weeks Cherishing the Cherubs project focuses on Praise.
Praise and positive reinforcement is a crucial element in providing our children with much that they need in order to approach life with a healthy optimism, self esteem and sense of pride.
In the past I have written about not relying on Praise alone to build positive self esteem, but rather it is one of the many tools we must use in order to raise happy and confident kids. I do however think there are some areas where we don’t always quite get it right.
In the early years we have no trouble heaping praise on our little cherubs as they learn to clap their hands, crawl, walk and kick a ball. It is the later years however, particularly the teenage years, where this praise often diminishes to a trickle. I recently read that teenagers, on average, hear one positive comment for every five negative ones. Not having reached that stage myself I am well aware that those said teenagers may sometimes make it difficult for one to heap on the praise. But with all the weird stuff going on in the teenage brain, the influx of hormones and the physical changes to their bodies, it is important to remember that these are crucial years in their development and we need to ensure the praise we so readily bestow on them in the early years, continues throughout these later ones.
The reasons for praise can be many and varied as can the way in which we praise.
If you are finding it hard to find any positives, remember that praise and positive reinforcement shouldn’t be limited to achievements alone or behaviours that are naturally expected of them. We must remember to praise children for their endeavours, to praise the times they try again after a failure and to praise them for moving outside their comfort zones.
For me therefore, it seems that all of my children have different requirements in terms of praise, not just because of their different ages and stages of development, but also because of their different personalities, their differing strengths and weaknesses and ultimately their different needs.
For the 4 week old: that’s easy! I just keep cuddling, kissing and showering him with words that all suggest little other than my complete doting adoration of him.
The 2 year old: He definitely responds well to positive reinforcement. He loves feeling like he is helping and so at any sign of a tantrum I have had great success by distracting him with a job or task to undertake, leaving him to revel in the subsequent praise.
The primary school age boys:This is where one sometimes needs to be more creative! My 8 year old exhibits a juxtaposition between a child that wants parental approval and one who is ever keen to exert his stubbornness assertiveness. I guess here it is about catching the positive stuff and reinforcing. The 9 year old is someone who has had many achievements come relatively easy. This is all well and good, however when it comes to things that he doesn’t naturally excel at, he often lacks enthusiasm. He needs to know that it is OK to not be great at everything and thus needs praise and encouragement to try things outside his comfort zone. The eldest boy is probably the complete opposite. Many things don’t come as naturally to him but his endeavours and preparedness to give things a go mean that it is easy to praise those achievements when they happen as well as his endeavours.
Do you praise your kids in different ways? Is it something you consciously think about?