To praise or not to praise, that is the question.
I find myself spending my days telling my kids how awesome they are. Every thirty seconds, someone says "Mom! Look!", and the typical response is me saying, "Wow buddy! That's great!" The list of things I comment on can be anything from reading their first book to a giant poop they just took. Seriously! Because they are boys, I can say I comment more on the latter.
Talking to a friend's mom the other day, I told her how much I respect what great, responsible human beings her two girls are. I asked her what did she do to raise such great kids.
Her response was "I only told them they did a good job when they did a good job. If they didn't do a good job, they had to go back and do it again."
This really resonated with me.
I wondered, how can I stop with all the "AWESOME buddies!" without hurting their feelings?
How do you build your kids up, but not too much?
I, of course, want to subscribe to the theory of too much praise is never enough. I want to make my children have the most confidence possible. As we all know the older we get, our self confidence meter subtracts every year. So to start off with a ton seems like by the time they reach forty they will be equally balanced, right? Wouldn't that be a great way to know if you were getting this parenting thing right? A simple math equation.
Too bad this is not true. Parenting is a constant question mark and thoughts of "gee, I hope I got that one right...".
When I was a little girl the most confident girls were called stuck up. They were snotty. They were eventually ridiculed by all the other girls that got sick of being bossed around. This ended up in a large bullying session. I do not want my guys to be bullied. No one does. So, to constantly tell them how wonderful they are seems like I am already setting them up.
I love Oprah, but I think the compassion that she taught opened up a world of unnecessary childhood praise. Parents in the 80’s saw what physical and mental childhood abuse can do later to grown adults. This scared us all so straight that I think we as a society went too far in the other direction.
Now, thirty years later, I am trying to raise two boys that want an "atta boy" for picking a piece of paper off the ground. I don't want my guys to do something simple and obvious at work and expect to be praised for it. What I really want to say is "Life is hard, boys, and you are not that important.” I think if they start off this wise knowledge, any praise they do get will be kind of a welcomed surprise. I don't want to create a life of dissappointments because their bosses don't treat them like their mother did. I want them to do a good job because THEY want to make THEMSELVES proud not their bosses. This will feel better to them.
But how do we get them here?
Unfortunately, all of our good intentions of atta boys can set up our children for a life of disappointments - a life where they blame bosses, teachers, husbands or wives for not constantly recognizing what amazing humans they are.
I wish I knew the answer to the question, “How much praise is too much praise?” Do you think a childhood filled with praise will lead to an adulthood of disappointment and frustration?
What do you think?