An Increase of Praise

Sometimes I judge my little people as if they were adults . . . as if somehow they are my physical and emotional equals. This is, of course, about as absurd as believing that I could fly a commercial jet with little to no instruction. It's idiotic, but I catch myself doing it all the time. And I'm a repeat offender.

"Hey Mom, can you get me a drink?"

I'm busy, so I naturally say something like, "Get it yourself."

Regardless of which child it is, the answer is always the same.

"I can't!"

I always mutter something along the lines of, "Don't tell me you can't," while simultaneously going to get them a cup from the cupboard.

There's a reason for this. It's because deep down I really know they can't. Our dishes are all in upper cupboards that even I have to stretch to reach. I mean, technically they could scale the cabinets like Spider-Man and stand with their muddy sneakers all over my countertops, but let's face it, only Dad encourages that sort of behavior.

I find myself expecting them to react, understand, and conclude with the sharpest of adults.

"What on Earth made you think it was okay to push your sister over for simply walking past you!?"

"Why did you write on my piano keys with a Sharpie!?"

"What were you thinking!? Why would you eat half a bottle of foaming hand soap!?" (In my defense, Poison Control was equally baffled with this massive consumption. I mean, half a bottle!? One pump I can see, but come on!)

I don't know why I even ask because the answer is always the same. A blank stare followed by a shrug of the shoulders. And what am I expecting them to say? He pushed her because she was standing there. She wrote on the piano because she found a marker that wasn't out of her reach. He ate the soap because I bought the cranberry scented kind and it probably tasted like bubbly Koolaid. I'm expecting an answer that puts them on my emotional level . . . and they're not.

The positive side to all of this is that I'm aware of my stupidity. Awareness is the first step to getting anywhere as far as I'm concerned. Then you can get down to the solutions and I think I have.

My answer is praise. 

We need to praise our kids a whole lot more and criticize them a whole lot less (especially since, as previously established, my criticisms usually arise from ridiculously unfair expectations anyway). If we were to spend our precious time with our children admiring all of their efforts and successes and gently guiding them through their mistakes, our entire view of them would change. Suddenly we'd be so busy celebrating the fact that they finally figured out how to vacuum the floor without running over the cord that we wouldn't be nearly as concerned with why it took them this long to figure it out.

It's all about switching from a negative to a positive. Praise and criticism can't really coexist. Admiration wipes out disdain. We'll be so busy loving on all of their efforts and their strengths that we won't have time to wonder why our 7-year old doesn't yet understand calculus (not that I do either) or why our 4-year old thinks screaming in public is okay. Their greatness is going to make perfect sense to us.

And if you think that increasing praise isn't enough to make you accepting of the emotional and physical disparity between you and your children, let me remind you of one more gigantic detail.

You may be frustrated by your children's emotional and physical inferiority at times, but spiritually they are your equals.

I'm going to repeat myself. Spiritually your children are your peers. My kids and I stand side-by-side on the same sacred ground. And so do yours.

Look at it from that perspective for even a few minutes and your desire to praise those sweet babies should increase one hundredfold.

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