Meaningful Parenting- Go beyond 'Good Job'
I am an advocate of appreciation.
We were brought up at different times. Parents were more critical, and appreciation of any kind was hard to come by. Even if they did it had a hyperlink attached- “हाँ ठीक है ,अब ज्यादा उड़ने की जरूरत नहीं . आगे भी अच्छा करते रहना है ”. (It’s OK...you don't need to fly so much. You have to keep doing well.') The tone in which this dialogue was delivere was confusing to us- 'ये क्या था? "What was that? Are they happy or not happy?"
The inflated self-esteem went whoosh as we were thrown back to the ground.
It's different now. We, as parents, indulge in appreciation. A small or big act of achievement or even just the effort. We laud our children with ‘GOOD JOB’ as often as possible. Yes! The hypothesis has changed today. The more you appreciate, the better it is. All kinds of research going around to prove how appreciation is linked to better grades, better behavior, and better performance academically and in other aspects of life. It elevates self-esteem and self-concept of a child. Point taken.
Point mistook- We are overdoing it. We are making our children 'good job' dependent. As parents, we may laud them with a good job every now and then, but life realities are different. Aren't they? We do it at every time he recognizes a shape, kicks a ball, holds a paintbrush, or is blowing bubbles in the swimming pool, they will expect the same every time from people, and I hope not, from life itself. But is it easy to come by? No.
She may wonder why it didn't come by because she has been brought up in a way where every effort of hers met with those glorious two words-GOOD JOB said emphatically.
A year and a half back-My 4-year-old sonny boy was busy building Lego blocks. With every level he built, he would look back/look around and come to us and say- ”See, I did his.”
If we were not around, he would search for us in the home, carrying that half-made building just to get that ‘GOOD JOB’ push for him to complete his play. When the Legos fell, his frustration was apparent and disappointment all over his face.
A small example but great learning for me. As I said - I am an advocate of appreciation, but now I try to do it differently. He is out of the protected cocoon of home and started school. I know he will meet all kinds of friends and people. I want to give him strong roots when it comes to self-esteem. I want to make him ‘life ready.’ Those ways, I am providing him the armor to face small or big situations he will have to face and ride over. It doesn't guarantee smooth sailing. It definitely provides a solid hook to face the storm.
We love our kids. We love to see them do good, behave good and live well—one of the biggest joys of life, undoubtedly. But our responsibility as a parent is not only to put them on cloud nine.
Let’s initiate conversations of a different kind. It's OK to say ‘spectacular,’ ‘outstanding,’ ‘incredible’ and ‘fantastic.’ It will make more sense to the child if you, as a parent, take a little more time to explain to her what she did, how she did, and why she deserves that praise.
When things haven't worked out, big or small, there is a teaching that becomes even more essential- Teaching which focuses on the effort part, its importance, and its relevance in shaping the child's personality.
Let us focus on the process part and the feelings part.
“I see you were focusing a lot on getting these blocks to make this big tower.”
“I see you were trying hard to work out the color combinations to create this art.”
“I saw you were shivering, but you still took a dip in the pool and learned your strokes during the swim lessons. That was brave of you.”
“You have learned how to ride your bicycle...good job. It wasn't easy for me too when I was a kid, and my father used to teach me. You showed the same persistence that patience that I did in the past.”.
Son- Daddy, “What is persistence?”
Daddy- “It's the way you got up and tried every time you fell down.” Good Job, son.
The emphasis as you see changes from the final result glorification to the process that went irrespective of the result. In doing this, we are teaching them the virtues of patience, focus, hard work, and being brave. The means are necessary as the ends. We are bringing up our child, and this very child will be shaping the future. What he learns here goes a long way in what he will give to the world.