Praising Your Kids Effectively

Love, Unconditionally

The validating of our children should stem from the expression of our unconditional love...

By Focus on the Family Singapore | 24 October, 2014

It's no secret that we live in a performance-driven world where we often get sized up. Our children aren’t immune to this either

I once read a blog by a student who said that on the first day of school in Secondary One, she got questions like "What's your PSLE score?" instead of "What's your name?" When we become adults, the questions move to "What do you do?" "Where do you live?" Consciously or unconsciously, we're constantly sizing up others and getting sized up in return. And unfortunately, we sometimes do it to our children too. "How does my child compare to this other kid?" "Why can't he be more like his brother?" "She doesn't seem to exhibit any talent unlike other kids."

Children receive praise for their accomplishments, and these days, it seems like you're only worth something if you have achieved a certain score, attained a medal or prize, are admitted into a certain school, play a musical instrument, or have a certain gifting.

Yet every child needs validation and nurturing to fully develop into a healthy adult. Children need validation and nurturing particularly from both dad and mom, and we need to learn to affirm them for who they are - their character and values - above and beyond the accomplishments and their outward successes.

A former boss and mentor once taught me that in our interactions with people, we need to consider if our words and behaviors are a "construction site" or "demolition site." In other words, do our words and actions build up or tear down a person?

In the midst of juggling work expectations and deadlines, piles of laundry, messy rooms and fatigue, irritation builds up and tempers can get frayed. It is usually in these unguarded moments that we say words we don’t mean or regret ...... especially to our children and spouse.

But how much validation is enough? Some is not the same as enough. At the same time, over-praising and over-validation are counter effective and after a while, doesn’t mean much to a child.

The validating of our children should stem from the expression of our unconditional love for them as individuals. It's the type of love that says "You matter to me because you're my son," or "You're good enough because you're my daughter." Giving praise and validation for accomplishment is important; giving praise and validation for effort is more effective. But giving praise and validation not just for who they are but whose they are - mom and dad’s beloved - gives them an identity. Help your child grow into significance, not just success.

She looked at me with her large doe eyes, "I'm sorry Mommy. Do you forgive me?" This was after my daughter got disciplined for misbehavior. "Yes of course I forgive you, and I'll love you no matter what. I don't like what you did but I forgive you, and I will always love you because you are my daughter. Do you know that?" was my unreserved response. She nodded her head and bounced off to play.

© 2014 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

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