Karen’s Parenting Mini-Course Part 3 – Appreciate

I’m Karen. Welcome to my Parenting Mini-Course. This Simple Solution is to Appreciate and let your children know you believe in them.

When things are heading down a slippery slope, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can turn them around by focussing on anything that’s going right. Okay – so they’ve just traipsed mud into the house – again! But don’t mention it until after you’ve commented on how glad you are they’re back in time for dinner, if at all.

Are you suggesting I ignore bad behaviour?
Here’s why:
Our children want our attention. If the best way to get it is by being badly-behaved, they will be. But if the best way to get it is by being well-behaved, they will be! We can prevent a lot of bad behaviour and encourage the good by Appreciating our children. When we do, they’ll behave better almost immediately.

How do I show my children that I Appreciate them?
Want them to practice their instrument? Tell them how much you enjoy listening to them play. Want them to take their dishes to the sink? Thank them and tell them you appreciate it when they finally do it.

General praise, like:

Well done. Aren’t you AMAZING,”

is definitely better than none. But gushing tends to go in one ear and right out the other. After a while they won’t believe us, or even hear us. If, instead, we tell our children exactly what they’ve done well, they’ll start taking it on board.

What if it’s difficult to spot what my child does right?
When things go wrong – the mud, the arguing with siblings, the dirty dishes in the bedroom – we can’t help but notice and point them out. When we’re having a lot of trouble with one child, it’s hard to find anything they’re doing right at all. And it gets harder as they get older and start getting into trouble, being rude and answering back.

But the good things aren’t so easy to see. When they’re well-behaved, quietly watching TV or off playing, we don’t even notice them. The trick is to look for anything good they do, no matter how small, and mention it specifically.

“That was kind of you to share your PlayStation with your friend.”

At first it may be easier to see the absence of bad behaviour.

“Your sister really wound you up but you didn’t hit her. Well done.”

There’s no need to compliment them all the time or go overboard. Just say something specific and truthful like,

“You played hard in the match today.”

They’ll be pleased we noticed and will soon start to have a better self-image that’s based on truth, so isn’t inflated. Even if we realise later that they did something well, we can mention it at night when we put them to bed, or any time. A simple smile, a nod of approval or a thumbs-up is great, especially if they’re teenagers.

Appreciating also means accepting who they are, not comparing their behaviour to siblings’ or friends’, which is usually discouraging.

Are there other benefits of Appreciating my children?
Our children look to us for their self-image. So have faith in their abilities and let them do more for themselves. Give them responsibility and Appreciate their efforts. If they feel we believe in them, it helps them believe in themselves. It encourages them further to do the right thing and lets them know they can trust their own judgement.

We can also appreciate that new experiences of any kind can seem overwhelming. One way we can help build their confidence is by exposing them to new things before they have to face them on their own. For example, they’ll be happier going to a new school if we walk around it with them first.

So by Appreciating my children, it helps them in lots of ways?
By Appreciating our children and not being critical, we’re creating an emotionally warm atmosphere in the house. Everyone will be happier almost immediately and our children are far more likely to listen to us, even when we have to tell them what to do.

If we’re generous with compliments, our children will be too. Pretty soon they’ll start complimenting each other, and even us! Our relationship will start to improve because our children will know we think they’re wonderful and that we’re on their side.

Seeing our children in a better light is good for everyone, and helps us realise we aren’t doing so badly after all.

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