There is much that can discourage or tear down kids. It is important to praise our kids. So can it ever be unhealthy? Can we really "over-praise?"
How we praise our kids will impact how they grow up and their character. Today let's explore four unhealthy signs in our praising and what you can watch for. But we won't stop there...we'll also explore a better way as well as how to apply it in your parenting or mentoring/discipling. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, mentor, or a discipler of kids, this is worth a look.
Four Signs of Unhealthy Praise*
1. Self-Centered: “I did great, Mom! The child is frequently praised individually so he forgets the contributions of others in the group or his team effort. Instead, he focuses on his plays, efforts, goals, etc. Listen for the pronouns of “Me and I” instead of “He, she, you, or we” in the child’s vocabulary.
2. Praise-Dependent: “Do you like it mommy?” The child is so used to hearing adults praise that he now depends on those accolades to jump start his effort and needs your approval for self-maintenance.
3. Expects Accolades: “Aren’t you going to tell me, ‘Good job?’” The child has heard your “Good job” so frequently that the praise no longer is meaningful. The child just expects you to say, “Atta boy!” regardless of whether it’s deserved.
4. Over-Competitive: “But I’m better than her and got a higher grade.” The child has heard praise so often and needs the accolades to maintain her own self-image. The danger is that the child can begins to tear others down to feel better about herself.
A Parent's Best Lens
Our best "who we are" AND "who are kids are" is found in God's grace. That the message we live from as we parent, and the message we give our kids, is to rest in who we are as we rest in who God is. In the gospel there is new life and even forgiveness. We do not have to live from what we can do but from One who loves us greatly and gives generously.
This good news is that we are not just the sum of our parts nor our actions nor what others think of us. Parents are more than what their kids can be or achieve. Kids are more than the dreams of a parent, what their friends think of them, or even what the child him/herself may think.
In fact, God is so generous in what speaks into a life that what He gives is actually called grace, an unmerited generous favor toward us that comes just because He is who He is.
The result? Your value in life is transformed. With that grace, we can live with our eyes not just on ourselves and what we want...like the four areas above which can be summarized as too much focus on self, needing the affirmation of others, having to have recognition, or having to always win. Instead we can focus upon others and how we can serve them.
How to Not Over-Praise
What's your first step? We must live from grace if we wish to impart this to our kids. The result is that we share the gospel message in words and example, pointing our kids to God's grace in Jesus Christ. That they may have what we all desire, whether an adult or child: a life of freedom and fullness that can only be found in a God who loves them. May we, with our kids, all follow Jesus into that great reality.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10
How do you use praise? How do themes from your faith play out in your practice?