My mother started a habit when I was a child. Whenever anyone would compliment her on something my sister or I did well (whether it was a difficult task that we had completed or we behaved appropriately in public), she would make sure to pass the praise along to whichever of us it was intended for. She showed by example that we were the ones in charge of our own behavior, not her. Therefore, not only did we get the credit, but we also were the ones to have the responsibility when we made the wrong choice.
I have tried to do that with my children as well. Whenever anyone compliments me and tells me that my children are well behaved, fun to be around, responsible – whatever the compliment might be, I am quick to say to that person that my children get the praise for their accomplishments and that I will pass it along to them.
I think that is a really important habit to get into for two reasons. The first being that our kids need to know that not only are we proud of them, but also that others take notice when they do a great job or use self restraint or practice good manners in public. The second reason is just as important as the first: Our children need to realize that when they make a bad choice, that negative reaction is a reflection on them, not on us as parents.
In addition to the benefits our children get from that perspective, we as parents reap rewards as well. It allows us to be let off the hook when our children are navigating their way in this world less than perfectly. We did not get it right all the time when we were growing up and neither will our kids. However, the flip side is true as well. When our children do something praiseworthy, it is not our praise to keep. They are the ones that made the right choice. We might have provided the boundaries and structure for them to learn the good choices, but ultimately they made the decision to follow through.
I think that as long as we stay beside them to encourage, provide wisdom, and use a healthy dose of sense of humor when needed, not to mention, most importantly, to pass along the praise that is rightly theirs, it is my belief that stronger families will be built. Lastly, I think it will help your child’s self esteem as they start internalizing that they are in charge of themselves and good things happen when good choices are made.
So, a special thank you goes out to my mom today for modeling such an important lesson while I was growing up so that I, in turn, can pass along that gift to my children. Since I am more than willing to give the praise due to my children that they deserve, I am also willing to give the praise due to my mom as well.