We all know that our speech affects our kids. Obviously, If we constantly told kids that they are dumb or clumsy, we would disrupt their ability to gain confidence and ultimately they could grow to be more “dumb or clumsy”, not reaching their potential.

So we know we aren’t supposed to be negative, but just avoiding the negative isn’t enough. We need to have a plan for investing in our kids self image.

How can we use our words to lift our kids up?

We can praise our kids. When we praise them, we tell them that they have done a great job. We may tell a child that they got a great grade or that they did a great job on the picture. This is positive feedback, but it is performance based. It isn’t bad, but if all the only positives they hear come when they perform well, they could get the idea that they have value or are appreciated when they do something well.

A kid could get the idea that they are working for the family “corporation”. They get to keep their “job” as long as they perform well. But once the performance drops off, their value to the family drops. So many of the emotional challenges kids face are a direct result of feeling valued only when they act a certain way or do the right things.

We need to keep reminding our kids that they are innately valuable. Society doesn’t give them this message, so if they don’t get it at home, they probably will never hear it. Every person is valuable as they are, not because of what they do!

The basis of praise is that it is founded on a judgment. As a dad, when I praise my child, I am putting my judgment on what they have done or who they are. It sets the child up for needing confirmation from others rather than from within.

Praise sends the message, “you are valuable when you do or act the way I want you to act.” It is focused on external measures and tends to promote perfectionism and people pleasing in children.

We can encourage our kids. Encouragement is non-judgmental and typically notices what the child has done. It allows the child to focus on internal evaluation of their actions. Encouragement ultimately shows the child that he or she is trusted to make their own evaluations. It recognizes the effort a child puts forth rather than the results attained.

Example: “Suzie, you noticed that Johnny needed help carrying his books and you helped him.” Suzie is allowed to draw her own conclusions. The parent may even help Suzie notice Johnny’s reaction and how much he appreciated it. There is no judgment of whether the action was good or bad, only noticing what happened. Suzie learns to judge her own actions and set her own standards rather than trying to live up to her parents.

Since the focus is on the action put forth, taking risks and trying something new is promoted. There is no fear that the results won’t be good, because the effort is what is noticed. Trying and failing is ok. Effort and improvement are promoted, and persistence develops.

The bottom line is that children learn to contribute and that they are valuable for who they are. If children learn to give and can feel good about it, they will continue until they are capable of performing. If they only seek perfection, they will hold back fearing failure because they are overly concerned about the results. They will be more likely to quit, limiting their ability to master necessary skills.

Take the Purposeful Parent challenge.

Take a few minutes and write down some great ways to encourage your kids. It is best to come up with a good list of ideas, aim for at least a dozen. Here’s a quick test to see where the comments land. Practice using encouragement right away. One of the keys to change is to do something right away.

Testing the comments:

  • Does the comment focus on the result of the activity or performance?
  • Does the comment reflect your judgment; are you setting the standard of what is good or bad for the child?
  • Does the comment show competition or comparison to others? If the answer is yes to these, it is probably praise.
  • Does the comment simply notice the effort the child put forth?
  • Does the comment allow the child to draw their own conclusions?
  • Is it focused on their contributions and show appreciation?

It is ok to give kids praise occasionally, but we need to make sure there is plenty of encouragement so they know their self worth isn’t riding on their actions.

Is this new to you? Don’t be hard on yourself. If this is the first time you have thought about this, it may take a few times to get in the groove. Remember, anything worth doing well, is worth doing lousy until you get good at it.


For more information – www.raywilliamscoaching.com