Friday, April 26, 2013

Don't Be So Stingy

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not talking about money here.  You'll learn that frugal is one of my middle names.  I'm talking about being stingy with your praise.  Our children and students need to hear it when they do something well or right.  They need to know that we are paying attention and appreciate when they are making good choices and working hard.

If you've ever read any of The 5 Love Languages books by Gary Chapman, then you've probably figured out your love language and that of your kids.  Mine is words of affirmation, hands down.  I love to hear when someone thinks I've "knocked one out of the ballpark" so to speak.  My kids are each different.  I have one daughter who receives love through physical touch, one who prefers acts of service and one like me, words of affirmation.  This website can help you learn which love language you speak.

Sometimes praise can be hard to give.  Sometimes when my kids first come to me I have to really stretch to find something I can praise.  I want it to be meaningful.  That's what makes it tough.  I want to praise character qualities like honesty, diligence and consideration for another.  In the beginning, those qualities are hard to come by.  I've found, though, that if I keep on my toes and pay attention, I can find a gem here and there throughout the day.  

Don't we all have students like that?  It seems no matter what the circumstance, they're going to choose the wrong.  It's almost as if they try to figure out what you don't want and then do that.  Those kids are hard to praise, but if you take the time to find something to affirm them on, you'll probably get a big smile.  Those kids are used to being corrected.  Most likely they've been yelled at and belittled so often that they can't imagine anyone saying anything good.  You could be that person in their lives.  You know, the one that tells them they're worth something.

I've had students who started the year doing all they could to irritate and aggravate me, but they ended the year as my greatest helper and biggest fan.  What changed?  I did.  I stopped showing my irritation and started showing some patience.  It was hard.  I didn't start liking them overnight.  I spent a lot of days faking it and saying things like, "I really appreciate how you didn't push your neighbor out of the way when we dismissed for lunch today," and "thank you for not throwing your colored pencils today, but rather putting them back nicely."  It was a stretch and I was looking for any little thing to say to build them up.

But for a kid who never really hears words of affirmation, who never gets told that she is doing a good job or that she is appreciated, those words are like drops of water to a person dying in the desert.  Praise.  Who knew it could be such a powerful tool?  Proverbs 16:24 says, "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones."  Wouldn't you like to be that sweetness in someone else's day?  Especially a little one who doesn't get much sweetness coming her way?

Whether it's your children or your students, look for those who could use a little extra helping of praise.  You'll be able to find something.  The first time will be the hardest and they may give you a questioning look but keep praising.  It will get easier for you to do and they will treasure every.single.word.  Even if they don't show it.  

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