Saturday, November 23, 2013

Good Job!

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I have found myself, at times, feeling like the warden of the jail.  Giving orders to my kids again and again and again, the SAME orders.  Remember to brush!  Please put your clothes away! Please get the table set. I'm getting tired of those words and I'm sure that the kids are tired of them too.  How to get the kids to perform these behaviors without my reminding them day after day is still a mystery to me.  I am consoled by the fact that I wasn't a normal kid at their age, my mom was out of the house and I was very adult-ish.  Maybe it's normal to remind teens to brush teeth, put clothes in the hamper, and closing the door.

When work gets done, besides cheering on the inside, instead of outward praise, I comment on the positive deed and how it shows maturity on their part.  I'm not really good at just saying positive stuff, or, as I say to the kids, I really don't blow sunshine up people's asses.  (Thanks Top Gun.)  I compliment, but I don't just gush.  I just don't think that sort of thing is believable nor does it really have meaning.  And I'm pretty sure that my kids are far too empathic to buy cotton candy compliments.

Instead the kids and I often comment on how it is that true words of appreciation and acknowledgement focus on the work or action done rather than on the kid doing it.  And, besides, it seems to me from my observations that my children are far more motivated by the internal rewards of these comments that point out their hard work, improvement, extra effort, initiative, or perseverance with something difficult.  

My daughter, specifically, responds to words like I appreciate you working with your brother on that lesson work, and your hard work in this room really shows, and I can see that you put time and thought into this work and I am so proud of your compassion with your friend, she really appreciated it.  Instead of that ubiquitous Good Job!, I comment on her actual effort, behavior, and choice of activity.  It feels more authentic to me and it hits her to the core.

One recent event that this reminds me of as I type this was just the other day when my daughter was feeling ill, yet it was her turn to do the dishes.   When I said to her You really tried hard to get your chores done even when you would rather lay down.  I appreciate that!  Her smile, her GLOW was amazing...and made it so obvious that she appreciated hearing this type of comment, a comment of her actual action, her actual behavior.  She was deeply touched by this.  She has, since, gotten those dishes done quite quickly after dinner.  Seems that she felt good about herself, hey.

I admit that I am a totally imperfect parent.  But when I remember to do this, I feel like quite a good mom...!

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  1. I am just coming into that age with my son, who's 4 1/2 now. Figuring out what he likes to hear, and receive and such. Its hard on one hand to get that down, not for a lack of blindness, it seems to me that because we are all individuals, as well as the fact that I am an introvert, he is an extrovert, its harder for me to see what really drives him. Same can be said for dicipline. You should feel good for being able to nail that down, having figured out what makes your kids rise to the occasion. I am sure all in good time I too will get my son, and eventually my daughter figured out.

    1. Oh I understand! I'm pretty empathic and pretty extroverted and I'm just getting it.


      You will do your best, Chris, and that is all you can do. That's all any of us can do! You will do it with love and good intentions. And one day, your children will understand.


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