Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Praising Children

The one who praises a child wins a child's heart.

That is an amazing statement that I wish was my own inspiration. I read it on a blog and it was originally said by Michelle Dugger, a mom of 19 children. I read through the article quickly, but that one phrase kept coming back to me....

The one who praises a child wins a child's heart.

I gave the idea a lot of thought and causally started trying it out on my three children. With Emma, I was dealing with a chronic bad attitude, snotty remarks, and grumpy faces when she faced anything that wasn't her idea. Disciplining it out of her seemed to prolonging the displeasing symptoms. So I thought maybe this praise thing couldn't hurt, even if it didn't work.

I was also curious if more praise would have an impact Mandy who would rather whine and throw a fit than pick up her toys. It was hard to find things to sing praises about.

Oh Remington, I didn't hold out much hope that he would notice more or less praise. He's at a difficult stage with more "no"s than "yes"es in his life.

And I started praising. Complimenting good behavior, seeking to find the nice things to say and keeping criticism to a minimum. My voice sounded sugary sweet to my own ears and I even annoyed myself a little. My kids, on the other hand, ate it up like free candy at a summer parade.

"What a good job obeying! Thank you for helping your sister with the door! You are so thoughtful to remember your brother's hat!" All those exclamation marks at the end of sentences had me sounding like a favorite Sunday School teacher or excited Grandma.

Interesting that the people praising my children are the ones my children adore the most.

The one who praises a child wins a child's heart.

The praise started working immediately with a positive effect. All three had improved behavior and better attitudes. My oldest had a beautiful attitude about helping with chores. Middle daughter started cleaning up her toys without a fight. And even the toddler walked around smiling and handed me my cell phone instead of running to put it in the toilet. I absolutely knew I won their hearts because of this change in how I spoke to them. Stepping back and watching their glowing faces, I was ashamed I never used this approach before.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--
think about such things."

Philippians 4:8

I always heard that verse and thought it referred to the movies I watched or the books I chose to read. Or just the private thoughts running around in my head. But couldn't it apply to what I think of my children? In moments when I am frazzled and annoyed, I can easily pick out faults and mistakes. Philippians says to think on true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy things. In regard to myself.... my children!

I am continuing to praise them more and criticize less. Searching for areas where I can praise my children is very encouraging to me. It is like seeing a glass half full instead of half empty. Catching them in the act of being good is so much more fun than the opposite.

A secular site dedicated to giving child-rearing advice child had an article about this very thing (

"Nothing kills the ambitions as criticism does. Replace criticism with appreciation and praising words of encouragement. When criticism is minimized and praise is emphasized, the good things kids do will be reinforced and the poorer things will eliminate."

For the most part, the quote is true. Unfortunately, poor behavior won't just disappear. There are action and attitudes that are not solved with a compliment. "Billy, I saw you smack your sister with that bucket. Thank you for dumping the rocks out first." Discipline and consequences are still necessary. But praising a child more can have the desired effect of more encouraging actions in the future.



Stacy said...

I've noticed the same things around here! When I say, "Thank you, so and so, for obeying"...they all run to get to obeying so they can be praised too!

Kathleen said...

GREAT reminder!!! Something I forget so easily, but something that brings soooo much fruit. Thank you so much for this today!

Grace said...

Sorry! That was me. I was signed in as my mom!