You’d think I’d know this rule. I’m a teacher, and it’s one of the things that we often get drummed into us. One bad comment outweighs about ten good ones, in the mind of a kid. So no matter how many times you compliment, congratulate or acknowledge a student in a positive way, one negative comment can put you way back behind the eight ball again.
Now apply this to being a parent. I adore my kids, and I know full well they’re pretty darn awesome. I listen to friends and acquaintances talk about some of the problems they have with their kids and I really do appreciate how darn good mine are, for the most part! But all too often, this seems to lead to me expecting MORE of them. I want them to do better at school. I want them to always use their manners well. I want them to clean up after themselves ALL the time. And get ready for school QUICKLY (it’s the same routine every morning, so why does it take 15 minutes some days and an hour and a half on others!). So often, that means I’m nagging, or getting cross, or saying, “Yes, but don’t you think you could…”. And I’m trying really hard to focus more on the positive, because I know how important that is, and how downhearted a kid who is good, and trying his/her best, can get if all they hear is a variation of “You need to do better.”
Yesterday in the car on the way to school, my 8 year old countered my point that he needed to do more practise on his times tables with, “But I DO know my 12 times tables!” And he proceeded to tell me them. I was a bad mummy. Instead of being delighted with this, what did I do? I said, “That’s great dear, but when you REALLY know them, you won’t have to think about them, they’ll be automatic.” Then we got to school and off we all went.
I thought about my response a bit later in the day. He’s eight. Why wasn’t I just delighted that he could think his way through the 12 times table? What a wasted opportunity to show him I thought he was awesome.
When I picked the kids up from daycare in the afternoon, the first thing I said to Master Eight when he got in the car was, “You know, I thought about what you did this morning with your 12 times table and I realised that I didn’t tell you how awesome I think it is that you know them!” Well, you should have seen the gorgeous smile on his face, to receive the compliment. And that means that he had realised it too, and it meant a lot to him that I’d acknowledged it, even ten hours later than I should have.
Sometimes we need reminding that little things are big things to kids, and when they do good, no matter how little it seems to us, that we should give unconditional praise, and not always be looking for the next step up.
My kids are great – I need to tell them that more.