By Heather Sanders
I turned 41 on Sunday. One of my birthday gifts was a song written, sung, and strummed by my middle child and younger daughter, Meredith. It was a precious moment for both of us, but the truth is, there is a bit of a ...
By Heather Sanders
I turned 41 on Sunday. One of my birthday gifts was a song written, sung, and strummed by my middle child and younger daughter, Meredith. It was a precious moment for both of us, but the truth is, there is a bit of a story behind it.
Though Jeff and I dislike the sense of entitlement kids and even young adults seem to have these days – something we feel was the result of the self-esteem movement of the early 80′s, we do strongly believe in the power and importance of daily vocalizing our heartfelt love and praise to the kids.
As with many parents, we want to do right by the children we have been gifted, so through the years we chose to attend multiple parenting conferences, and read countless parenting books. In the process, we trained our ears to listen to what the kids were saying as opposed to the words that actually spilled forth from their mouths. Then, after learning about the differences in how individuals recognize, receive, and give love, we made it a point to understand and speak each of the kids’ love languages.
And most recently, an awareness of how personality type affects homeschooling approaches, was the catalyst for an enlightening correspondence with Rob Toomey of Type-Coach.com who, after agreeing to speak with me more about this topic for a future post, briefly detailed how personality awareness allows parents to “recognize differences in their kids and then create the right space for them to develop fully.”
Still, it was not until I read the chapter “The Inverse Power of Praise” in the book, Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children, by PO Bronson and Ashley Merryman that I considered that some aspects of Jeff and my verbal praise may actually have a negative impact on our kids’ future confidence, growth and development.
Not All Praise is Equal
According to authors Bronson and Merryman there is a growing body of research suggesting that not all praise is equal; that in order to be effective, praise needs to be sincere and specific.
While sincerity is a requirement most parents grasp, we tend to generalize our praise and overlook the importance of specificity.
Case in point: Meredith has been writing, singing and playing music for the past few years. Her Daddy and I are thrilled and frequently praise her privately and publicly, often using phrases like, “That was perfect! You are such a talented musician!”
However, we began to notice a pattern of Meredith becoming inconsolably angry when she makes multiple errors on a piece. When playing the piano, she may slam the lid down, stomping off to hide out in her room, all while verbally berating herself about the inability to perform the piece perfectly. When playing her guitar, she may choose to refuse to play “live” for us, preferring to play us recordings instead.
Trying to soothe her I did not recognize the role we played in her behavior. I did know that nothing we said made her believe we enjoyed the music when it wasn’t perfect, and did not see how it robbed her of the desire to continue striving to produce music.
With the book’s research tucked into my thoughts, in the past few weeks I have mindfully attempted a different level of response when it comes to Meredith and music.
This weekend while Meredith played the birthday song she wrote for me, I listened intently throughout the entire song, mentally decided what I loved most about it, and when she finished, I asked her a few clarifying questions about the lyrics, followed by a completely sincere, highly focused nugget of praise.
I told her that I appreciated the time she committed to writing such personal, heartfelt lyrics, and I told her I enjoyed that the song had its own unique sound. Then, because it was different from what she had written previously, I asked if she drew inspiration from any of her recent favorite artists.
My response opened the door to a very interesting conversation, and lat