In Praise of Praise

Praise is like anger – done at right time, in right amount and for right reasons create wonder. Shallow praise leaves a bitter taste. Be real “Praising – Worthy”

One child of 14 yrs asked me ‘aunty tell me frankly you do not get annoyed when a child comes to you and ask how is this? Is this beautiful? She further shared ‘I am asking because you work with so many kids, you must be really getting annoyed? I find it difficult when small kids come to me and ask me for approval ‘how is this?”

So seeking praise or approval can be annoying to others 🙂 Often when kids (even adults) make something specially a painting or sing a song they first look at the approval or adults, then look for praise or approval and then look anxious in the anticipation of disapproval. Some of us praise “it’s nice, Wow!” believing that otherwise the child will get disheartened. And imagine the child growing with a need of external approval?

Well, also let’s understand why does one need approval? May one feels inadequate? May one feel low abut self? Maybe one has got used to becoming dependent on others? Praising will not help to understand self, may be praise will suppress the real need.

She comes running to her parent “Look I made a painting” “Oh yes, that is really very nice”. Here is what the child might think: “Does she really mean it”? (doubting the person showring shallow praise) “It’s not nice, she doesn’t actually like it”? (doubting the praise) “Nice, it’s actually quite bad, I am not good at painting”! (doubting the praised) “She is not interested. She wants to get rid of me”! (doubting the intention – manipulation) “I don’t know how will I make painting this good again”? (doubting the future). It’s highly unlikely that the child will really feel nice about it.

It’s almost equivalent to getting a praise that “the dinner was great” when you know it was possibly just OK. One just enters the realm of doubting. I remember in one of our workshops I told a girl that her story was really good. She came back to me and asked: “Is it really good?”. I replied, “It’s quite superb, I quite like it”. With a still stern face, she repeated: “But I don’t think so.!”

The more extravagantly we praise, the lesser we seem to get through. Praise is SUPPOSED to encourage. Children are SUPPOSED to feel good about it. Then why mostly it falls FLAT? This happens because they don’t know WHAT is GOOD and they are dying to know exactly that. Just tell them WHAT is GOOD and they will appreciate themselves! Be SPECIFIC – When we praise ‘wow, nice, goo”, it really does not tell anything. So how about being specific ‘the composition is good, or even better I liked the mix of blue and orange shades. Maybe the child will also start ‘I hate this orange here but I liked the blue line’. So much to talk, explore, express and know each other. Instead of “that is really very nice”, let’s say, “You have drawn the clouds, and this river is just flowing so beautifully, and that orange is such a pretty color for flowers.” “I am quite a good painter. Let me do more” is the expected self-encouragement. ROLE REVERSAL – How about making a child dependent on self for that we need to reverse the roles ‘You tell me, what are you liking?

And to your surprise the child will start ‘I like the way I drew this line, But I am liking that the color got mixed up’. Isn’t self-evaluation is key to understanding self? EMPOWER – Often means ‘power within myself’. How abut making child understand his own strengths. ‘How do feel? What else you think could have done? Instead of “you were terrific in the game today”, let’s say, “You handled the ball at the end of the game, and also how hard you were running all through out. “I am a good player. Let me practice more” is the self-praise. Isn’t this so beautiful? And FINALLY PRAISE – Often I jokingly say to kids ‘so you want me to praise?”. Either I exaggerate or just praise with a smile.  

Three simple steps to attain complete celebration of your young one’s spirit:

  1. Invest small (really small) amount of our time to stop and look at what is really nice.
  2. Then tell that to them – DESCRIBE something SPECIFIC.
  3. Then just sit back and watch the young one shine and bask in self-glory. It works wonders. Do it today!   Watch this video