Archive for February 23, 2013

Are You Giving Your Family A Mud Bath?

I remember giving my children baths when they were infants. They loved to play with the bubbles and the little toys we put in the tub. Sometimes, we would come home from a hard day of play and they would be so filthy a bath just wouldn’t cut it. You know the days: days when you and your children come home covered with sweat, dust, and even mud. I recall having my daughter in a child-seat on the back of my bicycle while we rode through mud puddles…laughing as mud splashed up all over us. We had a great time, but left for home covered in mud. When we got home, we did not just plop her in clean bath water. First, we rinsed all the mud off. Then we rinsed the mud out of the tub. Only after completing both of those tasks did we fill the tub up with fresh water and allow her to bath. After all, who would wash their child in a muddy tub? 
Even though we would never bathe our children in a mud puddle or a tub filled with mud, we sometimes shower our family with muddy, offensive words. Every day we bathe our children and our spouse in our spoken word. Each time we shower them with words, we pour patterns of thought into their lives that shapes how they see themselves, their family, and even the world around them. Words, like water, can gently wash away the hurt, pain, and shame of mistakes, misunderstanding, and even sin. On the other hand, words have the power to erode a person’s self-confidence and drown them in shame, disgrace, anger, and fear. So, in what kind of words do you bathe your family?
·         Do you bathe your family in sensitive words of love and affection? Or, do you shower them with insensitive words and rationalize it because of your anger?
·         Do you shower your family with words of gratitude and respect? Or, do you flood them with disrespect and criticism?
·         Do you bathe your family in words of encouragement and appreciation? Or, do you send torrents of crass, demeaning words through your home?
·         Do you bathe your family in loving words of accountability? Or, do you sprinkle derogatory, shame inducing words on family members who misbehave?
·         Do you take your family to movies or places where words of purity, integrity, and value wash over their minds and hearts? Or, do you take your family to places where they find themselves submerged in words of animosity, selfishness, and impurity?
Paul, writing to the Ephesians, suggested that husbands be like Christ, who washed and cleansed His Bride in water by His word. Christ cleanses us with His word. Will we do the same? We can change our family for better or worse with the words we allow to wash over them, whether those words come from us or the environments to which we take them. Cleansing our family with loving, affectionate, and sensitive words can revolutionize a family… not just for today but for generations to come!

4 Steps to a New Child

Parents help their children replace problem behavior with more appropriate behavior. It sounds so simple when stated in that sentence; but, every parent knows that helping children grow is anything but simple! Here are four steps that just might ease the way a little. At the very least, these four steps for helping change behavior will provide a guideline to keep parents on the path toward growing healthy, mature children. The first step involves increasing your children’s awareness of the problem and how it affects them. They will not gain that awareness if we, as parents, continue to bail them out of the problem or minimize the consequences of the problem behavior. As long as parents bail them out of every problem or minimize the consequences of the behavior, children never realize that the problem actually affects them. Let the natural consequences of behavior fall where they may. Let the children endure some of the discomfort and pain that naturally results from problem behavior.
Second, once your children realize that a problem exists and that it affects them, resist the temptation to rescue them or solve the problem. Instead, step back and talk with them about the problem. Learn about their perspective of the problem behavior. What led them to engage in that behavior? Did it have any perceived positive results? How did it not work? What was the negative result of the problem behavior? What result would they rather achieve? Explore positive alternative behaviors that might obtain the results they seek. Consider each alternative individually and discuss the skills needed to engage in that positive behavior. Do they need to trust themselves more? Talk with a parent first? Seek out an adult or a mentor? What skills do they need to learn? How can they learn those skills? Throughout this discussion, write down the ideas and a plan, step by step.
Third, consider the benefits and costs of changing the negative behavior. Map out the logical consequences of each alternative behavior step by step, so your children will understand the benefits of the new behavior. Your children may have to learn skills, avoid certain places, make new friends, build up the courage to talk with an adult, etc. These steps take energy and time. As you review these steps with your child, compare the costs in time and energy to the benefits gained over time. Make sure your children recognize and believe that the alternatives behaviors are worth the effort. If they do not, recall the negative results of the problem behavior and continue to explore alternative behaviors until you agree upon one in which the benefits outweigh the costs. Also, discuss how you, as a parent, can support your children in making the change. Once you have an agreed upon alternative, make a commitment to change.
Fourth, encourage your children along the way. Change does not happen immediately, so watch for subtle changes and progress toward the final goal. Recognize progress toward the alternative behavior. Acknowledge efforts made. Support your children in ways that you agreed upon in step three. Don’t forget to celebrate progress. All efforts to grow are worthy of celebration!

Parenting the Curious Explorer

Children…curiosity…exploration…constant questioning. These words seem almost synonymous, don’t they? In fact, children love to explore. They have an incessant curiosity that leads them to actively investigate everything around them. They explore things with their eyes, ears, hands, and even mouth. Like miniature scientists they study the world around them to discover “how” and “why” things happen the way they do.
In the midst of all this curiosity and exploration, do you know what interests children most? You do! They want to know everything about you, their parent–what interests you, what holds your attention, what arouses your emotions. That’s why your infant wants to play with the cell phone you spend so much time looking at or the pots and pans you spend the hour before dinner using. A child’s curiosity also leads him to ask you unending questioning–“What are you doing?” “What’s that?” “How’s that work?” “What’s that do?” “Why?” Sometimes this curious desire to know leads them to engage in somewhat irritating behaviors like flipping the light switch on and off to learn about cause and effect, or, throwing their spoon on the ground to see how much they can get you to do. As they get older, their curiosity encourages them to chase after ants with a magnifying glass to look at their magnified image and learn about nature. Even a teen’s curiosity leads to behavior we sometimes questions, like “doing donuts” in a snowy parking lot or setting a firecracker off in a model car. They want to know about everything…especially those things that interest you. This incessant desire to learn about the world may even lead to behavior you don’t particularly like. I remember learning how to make a “washtub bass guitar.” I loved music and the excitement of making my own instrument overwhelmed me. Curiosity and excitement led me to drill a hole in the bottom of my parents’ only washtub basin, cut off the whisk-end of the broom, and connect them with a string. The resulting music sounded good to me…my parents disagreed. I ended up playing the blues in my room for a time.
All kidding aside, curiosity helps children learn. More importantly, a child finds the most pleasure in exploring when they can share that exploration with a parent. As a parent responds with supportive comments and shared excitement, their child gains pleasure, finds that learning is fun, and grows more confident in their ability to meet and conquer challenges. I love this table developed by Dr. Bruce Duncan Perry, MD, PhD, that shows curiosity ultimately leads to greater confidence and more exploration. Limit their curiosity and you ultimately limit their mastery, confidence, and even sense of security.
results in
results in
results in
results in
results in
results in
New Skills
New Skills
results in
results in
Self Esteem
Self Esteem
results in
Sense of Security
results in
More Exploration
Children are curious, but they are also immature and inexperienced. As family shepherds, we have to watch them and protect them while encouraging appropriate exploration. That demands that we accept their curiosity and their immaturity as natural. We need not yell and scream at them for immaturity. No, immaturity calls us to teach them. Their immaturity invites us to be present with them in their curiosity, invest our time in their exploration, and share in the excitement of their discovery. By remaining present with them in their curiosity, we can address any concerns that might arise. When they become disruptive, our presence will teach them how to explore in a more appropriate manner. Investing our time in their exploration allows us to help channel that exploration in appropriate venues. We can teach them that the library is not the place to explore sound, but the music room is…late at night is not the best time to practice rock riffs on the electric guitar, but early evening is…the house is not the best place to explore the properties of flying water, but the yard is. By sharing in their excitement we teach them that exploration is valuable, learning is fun, and discovery is good. A parent who shares in the excitement of their child’s discovery will find ways to promote exploration and curiosity rather than saying “don’t touch,” “don’t climb,” “don’t take that apart,” “don’t get dirty.” That may mean setting some boundaries around the curiosity. For instance, letting your child know that playing in the mud may be fun, but they have to change clothes before stomping through the living room…playing with the condensation on the window is interesting, but they will need to help clean the fingerprints off the window when all is said and done. And, while they help you clean up, you have the opportunity to talk about the exciting discoveries made during play.
Enjoy your children’s curiosity. Nurture and participate in their exploration. Celebrate their discoveries. They will grow in wisdom and confidence. Most importantly, you will both enjoy a deeper and more intimate connection as you explore your child’s curiosity together.

2 Words That Will Change Your Parenting!

Maybe you have had one of these experiences and felt your heart go out to your family member: watching your daughter cry after breaking up with her first boyfriend; seeing the hurt in your young son’s eyes because he was passed over on the sports team; seeing a spouse drown their deep sorrow in one too many drinks; watching a child who has experienced being bullied fall into the “wrong crowd.” When we encounter these painful experiences in ourselves and our family, our heart goes out to the person suffering; we feel compassion for them. We want to reach into their lives and end the suffering, to make the pain “go away.” It would be nice, we think, to make it all disappear with the wave of our magic wand…but there is no magic wand. Still…
This feeling of compassion calls to my mind the father of the prodigal son. Can you imagine the desire this father must have felt to protect his son, to make his son see the foolishness of his request? But, he could not make his son see things differently. I wonder if he knew what his son was doing after he left home. Did he know his son was blowing all the money on an illicit lifestyle? Subjecting himself to those who would take advantage of him? Placing himself in dangerous situations? Leaving himself open to all kinds of diseases and pain? The father must have felt great pain to know that his son had lost it all, even falling to the depths of living in a pig sty and eating pig slop. Can you imagine the father’s desire to relieve that suffering and restore his son to the comfort of family and home? The father could have sent his son an extra few bucks to help relieve some of his suffering…you know, “Son, I know times are hard so here are a few extra bucks to buy yourself some food this week.” The son would have likely blown that money on those friends who simply took advantage of him. The father could have said, “Son, I don’t want you living in a pig sty. It makes our family look bad; so, I’ve arranged an apartment for you. Live there.” The son would have most likely enjoyed the apartment…and had huge parties in that apartment every night.
The father did not reach out in simple compassion to relieve his son’s self-induced suffering. Instead, he exhibited longsuffering—he patiently endured the hardship of watching his son suffer; he patiently endured the offense of his son’s behavior. Why did he do this? I believe he did so in order to allow his son to know the full consequences of his behavior. He wanted those consequences to bring his son to his senses and turn his heart toward home. He knew that self-induced suffering must be endured; and, when allowed, this suffering often brings maturity. I’m sure that the father “suffered long” with his son and felt a deep compassion in his heart for his son. I’m sure the father longed to reach out to his son and relieve the suffering; but instead, he suffered the pain of watching his son go through the hardships of his choices. Whose sufferings were greater? I’m not sure…perhaps the father’s. Fortunately, in this story, the father’s longsuffering paid off in the end. The son did learn from those consequences. The son did mature and turn his heart toward home. And, as soon as the son turned his heart toward home, the father ran to meet him…embraced him, kissed him, reinstated him into the family, and held a welcome home party.
Like the prodigal son’s father, we have to practice both compassion and longsuffering in our effort to parent our children. They are both necessary to establish a healthy family life. Compassion without longsuffering will contribute to continued negative behavior. Longsuffering without compassion leads to coldness and indifference, anger and apathy. Together, compassion and longsuffering will lead to maturity and growth. Compassion and longsuffering also reveal the character of our Heavenly Father (Exodus 34:6-7). Practicing both will help us be like our Heavenly Father…and establish a family built in the image of God.

Family–Coal or Diamonds?

Imagine a lump of coal and a diamond ring. Both are composed of carbon and both serve a unique purpose. If a chunk of coal remains buried under 435,113 pounds of pressure per square inch and remains at temperatures of about 752 degrees Fahrenheit, its carbon composition purifies and its structure modifies to form a different kind of carbon. After this purer form of carbon is mined, a jeweler places it in quick drying cement and cuts a groove in it. He inserts a steel blade into that groove and hits it to cut the carbon into pieces. The jeweler then removes the cut pieces of carbon from the cement and places them in a lathe. Working with another piece of diamond as a cutting tool, the jeweler cuts the pieces into the more familiar shape of a diamond (Click Here to read more on how diamonds are formed). So goes the journey of a carbon from coal to diamond. In this sense, you may think of a lump of coal as a diamond in the rough.
Interestingly, diamonds are no more rare than other gems (Click Here), which raises a question. If diamonds and coal are both carbons and they are not more rare than other gems, why do we value diamonds so much more? According to, we value diamonds more than other gems because of marketing and ownership. Perhaps, the right marketer could buy his fiancé a lump of coal instead of a diamond ring and convince her of its value. Wouldn’t the ladies love that? 
Still, if I offer you a bag of diamonds or a bag of coal, which will you take? I could try to convince you of coal’s value by saying it can help keep you warm and help cook your food; but, you would most likely pay more for a single diamond than several bags of coal.
Let’s face it, we have learned to value diamonds more than coal. We treat diamonds with more respect and care. We honor our fiancés with diamond rings rather than bags of coal. We honor diamonds by treating them with care and respect while we throw coal in the furnace for our own comfort. We honor diamonds by giving them value and treating them as precious while we toss coal aside to trample under foot or on the fire to warm up a burger. We have basically set diamonds apart from coal, stating that diamonds are of much greater value.
With this in mind, I have to ask…Do you treat the members of your family like diamonds or coal? Do you treat them with care and respect or do you throw them in the fire to use for your comfort? Do you honor them by giving them value and treating them as precious or dishonor them by tossing them aside while investing your best energy in other areas of your life? Have you “sanctified” your family members, set them apart from other people, and determined that they have greater value in your life than others? When we answer “yes” to each of these questions, we value family members as precious and treat them as special; we honor them like diamonds among coal. Treating family members like precious diamonds is revolutionary. Join the revolution—sanctify family by making the determination to treat them like precious diamonds among the coal. 

KISS–Keep It Short & Simple

I had worked with Joe and his family for several months. During those months, I had watched the same scenario repeat itself over and over. Every time Joe did something, his mother lectured. It didn’t matter if he told his mother a lie or asked for help with a problem, she would respond the same way…with a lecture. Joe always responded the same way, too. As soon as she pointed her finger in his direction and said, “Joseph, you know…,” he tuned out. His eyes glazed over and he stared into space with a blank expression on his face. I know Joe’s mother had good intentions. She wanted Joe to learn from his mistakes. She wanted to share her wisdom. When he had a problem, she wanted to offer an instant solution. Unfortunately, lecturing did not accomplish any of her goals. Instead, Joe felt like she never listened. He felt disrespected and unheard. After a while, he simply tuned her out and quit listening.
I don’t know about you, but I get the same urge as Joe’s mother. I want to offer a wise solution, a quick answer to my child’s problem, or a quick and effective response to my child’s misbehavior. I hear myself beginning to lecture and see my child’s eyes glaze over. There has to be another way, a more effective way to get the point across. In fact, there is a better way. Here are three more effective ways to respond to your children’s request for help or misbehavior that needs correction.
     ·         Ask questions. If your children ask you to help them solve some problem, ask questions. Ask them to explain what they know. Ask them where they get stuck. Ask them if there are any other similar problems they have already completed. Sometimes they will figure the problem out as they explain it to you. If not, you might begin to ask “What if” questions. “What if you tried this?” or “what if you tried that?” When they misbehave, you might ask them, “Is that the way a young man/lady behaves?” or “Is that the behavior we expect in our home?” Doing so encourages them to slow down, think, and problem solve with you.

·         Allow them to experience the “consequences of their actions.” Most actions have a natural consequence. Some actions have enjoyable consequences, some have negative consequences. Either way, let your child enjoy the nice consequences of positive behavior and learn from the negative consequences of inappropriate behavior. If they waited until the last minute to do their homework and now struggle to understand the problem, let them struggle with that discomfort. Perhaps they will start earlier next time. If they consistently get up late for school, escort them into the building late. Inform the principal that your child is late due to not getting out of bed on time and explain you understand there will be consequences. Let your children see you support those consequences, the natural result of breaking reasonable limits. Yes, it is difficult to watch our children suffer consequences. However, by allowing them to suffer smaller consequences today, we teach them to avoid the harsher consequences of major misbehavior in the future.

·         When you do have to give more direct answers and suggestions, remember that children, and many stressed out teens, are concrete in their thinking. They cannot follow the abstract reasoning or rambling emotion making up a lecture. They need simple, short and sweet, statements. Throwing too much information at children will simply overwhelm them. They may get frustrated or angry as they see your emotion but still cannot understand the content of your speech. So, slow it down. Offer one piece of information at a time. Make sure they understand that information before you add more to it. You may even find it helpful to write down each point…or use something object to represent each point. This will allow your child to build their understanding of the problem and the solution, brick by brick.
Our lectures are really knee-jerk reactions to our fear. We do not want our children to suffer. We want what is best for them; and, when that seems threatened, we jump into a lecture. However, by using the three ideas above, you will find that you accomplish your goal more quickly and effectively. You will enjoy watching your children grow. And, you will enjoy missing out on the frustration of feeling unheard in the midst of a lecture.

Give It Up For Love…Start a Revolution

Give it up for love! Give what up? Give yourself up. Revolutionary love, a love that will change your marriage, your family, and ultimately your world, is a love in which you willingly give yourself up for the person you love. Let me say that in a different way. When we love our spouse, we give our life over to her, we deliver our life into her care and management, and we give our self into her power. “Wait a second…I thought the man was the head of the house?” Maybe so, but the head leads through servanthood and sacrifice. An ancient Christian writer said it this way: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself up for it…” There it is—husbands are to give themselves up for their wives. The original Greek word for gave up means “to give into the hands of another,” “to give over into one’s power or use.” Husbands are to lead through sacrifice; and, I believe, the whole family will follow his example. That is a revolutionary love…and a tall order. Think about what this means. To love our spouse, we commit our life to her. To love our family, we deliver our life into their use. My needs, my desires, and my goals become secondary to the well-being of my spouse and family. Practically speaking, this may mean:
     ·         Sacrificing the time I watch my favorite TV show, or the game, so I can spend the time satisfying my spouse’s desire to take a quiet walk in the park with her.

·         Giving up the last piece of pie so my children can enjoy it.

·         Putting aside my favorite book so I can spend time talking with my spouse.

·         Postponing, or even cancelling at times, my night out with the guys so I can watch a “chick flick” my wife wants to see.

·         Or, on an even more serious level, postponing a job promotion until the children are out of the house because my wife needs me at home and does not want me to be away from family so much.
I do not know how this revolutionary love might inspire to give yourself up. I only listed these few possibilities to get you thinking. Only you know what you may have to give up in order to show your truly revolutionary love for family. However, I do know this: When you discuss any potential sacrifices with your family, accept their influence in deciding what to do, and willingly make the sacrifice necessary for the best interest of those you love, you will experience a great reward. You will know greater intimacy and greater joy in your marriage and family. You will build memories that will not only live through your lifetime but will extend into the generations that follow you. You will have started a revolution!

Celebrate Lent As A Family

Lent begins this week. The observance of Lent reminds us to prepare our lives for the coming Christ. Traditionally, people observe Lent by practicing some sort of fasting (giving something up), generous compassion toward others (justice), and prayer (communion with God). To me, this sounds like a great opportunity to practice grace in our family as well as in the world at large. Grace begins with giving others the gift of acceptance. It builds to giving to others, and culminates in giving ourselves up for the benefit of others. What better place to learn and practice grace than in our family? With that in mind, I wanted to offer you a calendar of daily ideas for observing Lent with your family. The Family Lent Calendar focuses on aspects of grace (giving acceptance, giving of ourselves, and self-sacrifice) as we prepare for Easter.

The Family Lent Calendar (like grace) begins with giving up our pride so we can give the gift of unconditional acceptance. As a family, we learn to accept one another just as Christ accepted us (Romans 15:7). Christ accepted us (and even engaged in self-sacrifice for us) while we were still helpless disappointments who engaged in activities that set us at enmity with Him (Romans 5:6-10). Don’t get me wrong, He still convicts us of wrong behavior and disciplines us. However, in the midst of that teaching, conviction, and discipline He accepts us. He continues to come alongside of us and show us kindness. Since we have experienced Christ’s acceptance, we practice accepting one another. Family offers a great training ground for this type of unconditional acceptance. In fact, if we cannot learn to accept our family, how can we accept those outside of our family? For this reason, the Family Lent Calendar begins with accepting one another.

Acceptance sets the stage for grace, but grace quickly moves to giving, especially giving of ourselves. As a result, the Family Lent Calendar includes giving our time, attention, and energy to one another. Family helps us learn to generously give our full attention to others without distraction or selfish motive. We learn to give the energy necessary to share the burden of sorrowful emotions and the celebration of joyful emotions within the family. Family provides us the opportunity to invest our time and energy in sharing accountability, forgiveness, and deep connection.

Grace not involves giving of ourselves, it also includes giving ourselves up. Self-sacrifice is the pinnacle of grace. Each time we graciously give of ourselves, we practice some level of self-denial. I sacrifice “my desires” to benefit “us” as a family. I give up “my time” in order to invest that time in “our” family. I give up some of “my availability” to sports games, work, or music in order to remain available to “our” family. Studies suggest that families that willingly sacrifice for one another grow more intimate, share more joy, and experience more long-term stability. A level of self-denial contributes to healthy family life. The Family Lent Calendar makes several suggestions to help you offer this level of grace to one another in the family.

I hope you will review the Family Lent Calendar. Even if you do not use the whole calendar, consider the ideas on the calendar and implement some in your family this Easter season. As you do, you will prepare yourself and your family for Easter by sharing grace—acceptance, generous giving, and self-denial.

Start a Revolution for Valentine’s Day!

“You say you want a revolution, well, you know…we all want to change the world.”–The Beatles
I have an idea…a revolutionary idea. It is not a new idea. On the contrary, it is an ancient idea written to the Ephesians some 2000 years ago by Paul, a wise Jewish evangelist. His words of love are revolutionary, even today. Implementing his ideas this month will enhance your Valentine’s Day as they revolutionize your relationship with your spouse. Even more, I believe that implementing these words in our homes will spark a revolution that will not only change our families but the world. Yes, this revolution does begin at home. It begins with a personal change in how I respond to my family. This revolution has several components; but I only want to speak of one today. This first component begins the revolution; and it sounds…well, rather revolutionary by today’s standards. Let me explain.
We begin a revolution to change the world by surrendering to the influence of our spouse. You heard it right–give up your individual rights and entitlements and accept the influence of your spouse. Surprisingly, a compliment under this revolutionary love will sound like this: “You are a wonderfully submissive person” or “I really admire how you let your spouse influence your decisions.” I know that goes against the grain of our society, but it is supposed to be revolutionary. It even goes against the grain of our personal sense of entitlement. But, this attitude of surrender and submission can change your family for the better! When we accept the influence of our spouse (and even our family), we remain open to them. We voluntarily and gracefully keep an attitude of cooperation in the forefront of our mind. We constantly look for ways to surrender our personal desires to satisfy their desires. We accept their ideas and opinions. We listen closely, looking for areas of compromise and areas in which we can surrender our rights for them. We constantly seek to lift them above us in having needs met. We become their servant. This revolutionary concept—submission—begins the revolution!
To accept the influence of our spouse and family may be as simple as changing how we squeeze the toothpaste or hang the roll of toilet paper. It may prove as simple as whether we leave the toilet seat up or down—submitting our desire to our spouse’s desire. However, it can also become more complex when we discuss issues like where to go for vacation, where to live, or what job to take. In these complex areas, we will have to open up to our family, listen carefully to their words, understand the emotion behind those words, and value them enough to accept their opinion. To accept the influence of our spouse and family means that we allow their opinion to influence our decision. It all sounds great, life changing…but challenging to accomplish. Still, “you say you want a revolution….” And so it begins!

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Praising Your Child

Parents can promote good behavior, maturity, and positive growth in their children through encouragement and praise…well, most of the time. Encouragement and praise can also undermine a child’s growth and maturity. “What’s that you say?” It is true. If we, as parents, want encouragement to promote maturity and positive growth in our children, rather than undermine it, we have to avoid these five mistakes.
     ·         Do not overdo the praise. Go ahead and encourage, but keep the encouragement appropriate to the behavior. Too many times we praise our children endlessly because they completed a chore like setting the table or taking out the garbage. We raise the roof with accolades because they obtained “A’s” on their report card. We celebrate “graduation” from preschool with a big party and catered dinner. Children see through this façade and soon learn to interpret praise and encouragement as simple manipulation. Studies conducted in the classroom have revealed that students believe that praise and encouragement, when given indiscriminately, simply reveal who is least capable and who is struggling most; after all, parents and teachers, in an effort to encourage and build their self-esteem, “pour the praise on” those students who do more poorly. Don’t let this stop you from encouraging your children. Go ahead and praise. Give encouragement. But, make sure the encouragement matches the act. Some behavior requires a simple “thank you” or an acknowledgement that it was completed, not a party or a flood of accolades.

·         Do not praise with global statements like “Good job” or “That’s beautiful.” Such global statements leave room for misinterpretation. What was good about it? What makes it beautiful? Global statements of praise and encouragement also call the credibility of the person offering praise into question. After all, if I praise everything my child does, which acts were truly praiseworthy? A child will begin to question our “praise-credibility” when they hear us praise making their bed and graduation from college as “amazing, you did such a wonderful job.” Instead of offering global praise, encourage, acknowledge, or praise some specific aspect of what they did. For instance, rather than, “What a beautiful picture,” you might say, “I really like the colors you chose. How did you pick them out?” Instead of saying, “You did an amazing job helping with dinner,” try saying, “Thanks for mashing the potatoes.”

·         Do not attach a character label to your praise. When we say things like, “Good boy,” “Good girl,” or “That’s Daddy’s girl” when our children do something for us, we build a performance-based standard of acceptance. We subtly imply that “goodness” is only achieved through performance; our love is tied to performance. Instead, offer a simply smile, a “thank you,” an “I appreciate that,” or a pat on the back. Also, remember to acknowledge and praise the efforts our children make, even if the effort does not pay off with success. Thank them for their thoughtfulness, their desire to help, their effort to improve, even when they fall short of perfection. This communicates unconditional acceptance…and, it encourages continued effort.

·         Avoid the “Yeah, but’s.” You know what I mean…”You did a good job cleaning your room, but…” “Great job mowing the grass, but…” “What an excellent report card, but…” “That is the most beautiful picture I have ever seen, but….” (Notice the “overdoing” in these statements as well.) Any praise with a “but” added on becomes a criticism. It puts our children on the defensive. It makes them feel as though they are “never good enough.” They hear us telling them that they are inadequate and incapable of satisfying us. So, offer up your praise and encouragement, but leave the “but” off. Keep the praise “but-less.”

·         Finally, do not step in and take over. When we step in to finish the job or “put the finishing touches on it,” we communicate that our children “cannot do it” and that we “do not trust them to do it.” When your children wrap a present, let it go. It may not be perfect, but it was their job. Find some positive aspect of the job to acknowledge and let it go. When your children dust the furniture, do not redo it. Instead, offer some supervision while they do it; and, if you see an area in which they can improve, simply teach them. Doing so will communicate that you trust your children to do the job and you know they have the ability to learn the job.
There you have it, 5 mistakes to avoid when praising and encouraging children. So, get out there and praise your children. “You’ll do such a wonderful job. I know you will. You are so talented….” Oops, I got carried away and broke my own rules. I guess we all make our mistakes. Have fun!