“You’re such a good boy.”
“Wow, I really like your drawing!”
“I’m so proud of you!”
“You got all A’s. You’re so clever!”
We’ve all said these statements to children. At face value, it seems like an appropriate thing to say in the moment. Children seek out feedback from us all the time. “Mom, watch me slide!” “Dad, look how high I’ve climbed!” So giving them praise is a good thing, right?
Here’s the thing.
If we praise children every time they do something that is considered “good” by our standards, will they be motivated to repeat the behaviour in the absence of the praise?
And when we dig deeper…
Lynn Lott, the co-author of many of the Positive Discipline books, suggests that approximately 75% of the patients she sees in her family therapy practice have psychological struggles stemming from the misguided belief of “Undue Attention”. In other words, these people have developed a belief in the first few years of life that:
“I only matter when I’m being given attention.”
This seems relatively harmless, but when one begins to look under the surface, there are significant consequences.
For these individuals, the need for attention is not merely superficial. They crave approval from external sources, and this approval shapes their opinion of themselves.
Their self-worth is determined by others, and not from within.
And if we dig deeper, we see that when relationships falter, the wheels fall off. The slightest fracture can result in the desire to fill the emotional void. The knock-on effect can present itself in the form of depression, abusive relationships, and even addiction.
If we teach our children to depend on their INTERNAL voice for self-esteem, we can break this cycle.
A voice that offers stability and confidence, amongst a sea of external negativity. And in today’s digital landscape, filled with keyboard worriors and internet trolls, this skill is more necessary than ever before.
So how do we do this? We need to shift our language from praise, to encouragement. Read our next instalment to find out the difference between the two!