I was not a huge praiser to begin with, but even so had trouble articulating to myself the "why" of that. I worried that perhaps I wasn't being encouraging enough. The following quote from Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting
helped me gain perspective a little affirmation as well:
|Why do we feel the need to keep evaluating our children's actions, turning them into "jobs" that may, if they're lucky, be deemed "good"? From this perspective, it becomes clear that what we really ought to be looking for is a way of being positive that isn't couched in a judgement.|
The happy news is that it's not necessary to evaluate kids in order to encourage them. The popularity of praise rests partly on the failure to distinguish between those two ideas. Just paying attention to what kids are doing and showing interest in their activities is a form of encouragement. In fact, it's more important than what we say immediately after kids do something marvelous. When unconditional love and genuine enthusiasm are always present, "Good job!" isn't necessary; when they're absent, "Good job!" won't help.
For us, this means taking a genuine interest in whatever it is that DS is doing. If he draws me a picture for instance, I say thank you, and then ask questions about it, "Is this the waterfall we saw on Saturday?" "I see trees, and a trail and even the little fence around the pool. You remembered so many of the details of our hike." I might keep it much more simple and say, "Oh, a picture of our waterfall from Saturday! I'm going to put it right here on the fridge so I can continue to be reminded of our special hike." DS draws a ton. I've gotten quite into the habit of sauntering over to the table and just asking questions, "Is that the steam train from Dad's set, or yours?" Oh, I see now, It's got a red smoke stack, of course it must be yours!" Etc.
Moreover, I help him to pursue his interests. When something sparks, I take time to search the library catalog for books, videos on whatever "it" is. When we're going along in our day and we get to talking about something that he's clearly wondering about, but I don't have the answers to, I tell him I'm getting up right now to "write that down" so we can serach the library next time around and then I make sure to follow through. When he wants to dress up like a pirate, or a fairy, or a firefighter I help him by showing my own enthusiasm for whatever it is he's doing at that moment, and helping him piece the outfit together if he needs the help. Sometimes I put some wings on myself and fly about the room as well.
The other day, I had the table turned on me in that while DS and I were in the video section of the library, he brought ME a video on star gazing. He knew I was interested and helped me follow MY interests.
Does this mean I never say good job? No. But it is rare, actually. If I'm really excited about DS doing something and I share that wonderful enthusiasm of the moment I'm more likely to say, "YOU DID IT." As in 'YOU' did it. Not, 'I LOVE' what you did. Or perhaps, "You climbed higher in the tree than ever before. You must be feelin' right proud about now. You were so high up, I couldn't see you!"
I think to change something like this, it just takes acknowledging it as you have and then, practice. Hope something here helps!
Best to you, mama!