Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flattery versus Praise

By Dr James Dobson

FocusOnTheFamily_LogoSmall It’s a good thing to praise children for the praiseworthy things they do. But is there a limit to the compliments we offer them?

Praise is essential to a child’s self-esteem and children who grow up without it typically wither like un-watered plants. But too many good words for the wrong reasons can be inflationary in nature.

This is called flattery, and the essence of it is that it is unearned. It is what grandma says when she comes for a visit — “Oh, look at my beautiful little girl! You’re getting prettier every day!” Or, “My, what a smart boy you are!” Flattery happens when you heap compliments on a child for something he does not achieve.

Praise, however, is a genuine response to good things your child has done. It should be highly specific. “You’ve been a good boy” is too general. Much better is, “I like the way you cleaned your room today!” Or, “I’m proud of the way you studied for that math assignment!”

Praise reinforces the child’s constructive behaviour. It tells him he’s done something positive and valuable, and it makes him want to repeat it. Parents should avoid sliding into empty flattery. But they should always be ready to offer genuine praise to those who deserve their commendation, and that includes every child if we’re alert to the opportunities around us.

From TODAY, Voices – Tuesday, 28-April-2009

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