Rather Than Praise

Reposted from the Toddler Guru blog by FCM Toddler House Director Angie Ma:

http://toddlerguru.blogspot.com/2013/03/rather-than-praise.html

What do we do instead of praise and reward our children? When a child comes to us beaming with pride, stop and share fully in the moment with the child. Share his joy and exuberance without words, and listen  rather than speak. We can accept so much more in a moment of connection and shared emotion than we can communicate with a label or an award.

  • A child may feel successful, even if we don’t define the outcome as “right.” When we don’t define success with our praise, a child can experience his own sense of gratification.
  • She may feel joyful about something completely different than what we choose to praise.
  • We wish to encourage perseverance, but we usually praise a job done effortlessly and perfectly.
  • We know children develop skills through repetition, but we almost always praise the child the first time  he completes a task, then ignore or even grow frustrated when he repeats it 100 times.
  • A child who is interested will stay focused. When we praise the actions we value, the child must choose whether to follow our interests or his own. He loses the opportunity to experience the joy of following and discovering his own interests.
  • When we don’t describe people as good or bad, smart or dumb, nice or mean, we teach our child to fully accept himself and others. When he asks “Why?” we can say, “He is still learning,” or “She forgot to use her gentle hands.” We can help him say, “I don’t like that!” or we can explain, “You can join us when you are ready.”

If we want our children to share with us, then we must listen. If we only praise and validate when a child shares something to be proud of, will our child come to us when he is feeling shameful? If we define a child as smart when something comes easily, will she feel safe trying something that may be too hard? If we define a person as good or bad based on his actions, will our child believe he is a good person when he makes a hurtful mistake?

Our child doesn’t need to hear, “I’m so proud of you,” he needs to share his joy and see that you receive it.
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