A Little Praise Goes a Long Way
Every night before the kids go to bed, Nelson prays over them. "Lord
Jesus, bless _. May he/she sleep well. May he/she grow to be an incredible
man/woman of God, always doing the right thing, loving above all else and
putting others before him/herself."
Today when I picked Max up from his catechism class, his catechist told me that he had done something really wonderful today.
"Little _ was having trouble moving his chair and without being asked, Max walked over, picked his chair up for him and asked the boy where he would like him to put it," she told me with such a sweet smile.
I quickly knelt down so I could be at eye level with Max. If I've learned anything in my 12 years of parenting, it's that when kids do something worthy of praise, you praise them - right at that very moment. These moments can sometimes be hard to find, so when they come, you jump and jump quickly.
"Max," I said in my proudest mommy voice, "I'm so proud of you! That was kind and thoughtful. You put someone else before yourself, which is what Daddy prays over you every night. Good job!" I gave him a big squeeze and a smile and off we went.
I did not go overboard. I took pause, acknowledged what he did, told him why I thought it was so great, and that I loved him. I also told Nelson when we saw him and I may even share the story with his older siblings because it's good for them to see his example and also gives them a chance to congratulate him on his good choice.
In parenting there are sometimes hundreds of times a day I have to correct someone. It's hard, tedious and exhausting. I have to remind myself that children are not small adults. They have to be trained and we, as their parents, have to do it.
I'm finding though, that if I focus and look hard enough, I can also find reasons to praise them. Simple choices like practicing the piano without being asked or complaining will garner a, "Good job son. I'm proud of you for remembering to do that." Hundreds on tests get a high five, remembering to do a chore gets a, "Thank you," and moments like today that go a little above and beyond get praise and the occasional, "Guess what Max did today."
It's so easy to let this side of parenting slide. We get so focused on all the stuff they do wrong that we miss it when they do something right. To me, this is every bit as important as the correction. It's a chance to encourage as well as drive home the reason for that encouragement.
If you choose wisely and look closely, there will be moments you find praiseworthy. Praise them when you do. Don't save it for later. Don't file it away hoping they'll do it again. Praise them when you see it happen. Tell them why you're praising them.
This simple act, regardless if it causes your shy child to stare at the floor or your self-confident one to walk a little taller, can have lasting, positive effects.
Then pray like crazy...every - single - day...that they remember that moment. Pray that they make good choices. Pray they become incredible men and women of God. Pray, pray, pray.
One day, God willing, they will be adults, self-confident enough to make good choices even when no one else is watching, even if nobody ever praises them. They will do it because they will know that you love them. They will know God loves them.
And that? That will be enough.