Your child cleans her room, plays a beautiful tune on the saxophone, draws an apple tree by a lake.
And you praise her for what she’s accomplished, sharing your excitement, gratitude, amazement, pride.
Your intention comes from a loving place, but it may land differently than you expect on your child’s ears.
She may hear your praise as approval, rather than love.
And gradually her ear will become attuned to your praise. She will begin to listen for what is good and elicits your comforting nod. And she’ll soon notice what goes without your acknowledgement.
This is the black magic of praise–it’s conditional and often relates to performance. Your child learns to seek your praise. She will gradually trade her innate joy and creativity for the safety of your approval.
Instead of praising the results, honor her growth by noticing her efforts.
If she fries an egg on her own, you might honor the patience she’s needed to learn this new skill. Speak of the strength she’s developed to lift the weight of the skillet. Remind her how she has learned to turn on just the right amount of heat. Imagine the care she has taken in cracking the egg and laugh together about all the botched attempts of the past.
When you honor her efforts, rather than praise the results, you’re helping your child understand her own resourcefullness.