THOSE "GOOD OLD DAYS"
It's so easy to take the little things in life for granted. We are often quick to complain about the not-so-great stuff and forget to appreciate the good things that happen each day. The same can so easily happen when you're parenting children.
In the not so good old days when I was a child it was the norm to be told what you were doing wrong, to be smacked or reprimanded and expected to do better next time. It was almost unheard of in my house for a compliment to come your way. In fact, when I look back on my childhood, I don't really remember any words of encouragement or positive input coming out of my parents' mouths. I don't remember hearing any being directed towards my brothers either, so it wasn't just me or something I did wrong.
I'm not sure how we figured out what we were doing right if we never heard anyone tell us what a good job we were doing. I guess we knew if we weren't being criticized then we must be on the right track. It's a strange way to be parented when you compare it to the parenting style that is all around us today.
SUPER DUPER KIDS OF TODAY
It seems you can't compliment a child too much now days. Every little achievement is lauded and praised, from "I ran in a race" badges to schools cancelling sports carnivals because they didn't want any child to feel like they weren't winners. I can't believe the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction in such a short period of time. It's almost as damaging to over-compliment children as it is to never praise them.
IT'S ALL ABOUT BALANCE
Life and parenting are all about balance. It's so important to recognize your child's strengths and to let them know how well they're doing, but at the same time you don't need to overdo it to the point of creating narcissistic monsters who think they are the best at everything. Sooner or later they will get a very loud wake-up call when they come across someone who is more talented or better skilled than they are.
It's hard to know if you got the balance right. Nobody wants to think they didn't build into their children the self-esteem they need to be able to face the world with a strong sense of self worth and the ability to be resilient when life's ups and downs strike home. It's so important to give your child an innate sense of who they are and what they are capable of - but at the same time not big-noting them into a false sense of overconfidence.
IT'S ABOUT CHARACTER FIRST AND FOREMOST
I think part of the secret is to focus on the good stuff, quality character traits, goodness, kindness, self-control, hard work, diligence, the ability to take criticism on board but not take it to heart. So often we focus on physical traits when we compliment our children - you're the smartest, you're the prettiest, you're the fastest, you're the most popular etc. When instead we should be praising them when they show strength of character, or put someone else's needs before their own, that's a really hard quality for a child to learn.
It comes back to balance again, it's easy to find physical things to compliment but we need to also look for the deeper spiritual qualities in our children too and help them develop those traits because that's what makes them strong and worthy human beings. Children need to know they're loved and appreciated, they don't learn that by guessing, they learn it by hearing it every day in different ways - especially from their parents.
I hope my children have memories of being praised, I hope they developed some of their self-esteem from the security of the family home. I hope they know deep within themselves how valuable they are and how much they are loved by their parents. There's not much else a child could ask for than that.