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Real Praise for Your Children

Real Praise for Your Children

Have you had the challenge of working in an environment of negative motivation—a place where praise is rare, but complaints flourish? I had the fate of working in such a place. Sadly, I don’t believe the management even knew their folly, because they fell into the trap of thinking their comments were balanced.

The supervisor would start by giving general, non-specific words of praise, “You’re doing well,” then with a “but” they would continue with a lengthy list of specific areas in which the employee needed to improve and instances when they had not met management expectations/ After all, “Nobody is perfect, there is always room for improvement.”

Since the praise was far from specific, it had almost no value against the specific complaints and it was discouraging overall. The reality is, even if there are no negative comments, praise without specifics can be weak.

It was a challenging place to work as motivation and employee satisfaction was low. Parenting has a similar challenge. I didn’t want my fathering to fall into the pattern of some parents, “If I haven’t said anything bad, everything is good.”

A clarification may be in order. My primary role as a father is not as a manager. I am to be their guide, mentor, example, and fellow journeyman in life. However, there are times when I fill the role of being an evaluator.

In my life, a great example of this comes from the theater. I have two sons, both of whom are involved in stage plays at their school. One is an actor. The other works behind the scenes in the tech booth.

To the actor I don’t just say, “You were great in the play,” but, “I really like that scene in which you…” or “I enjoyed the face you made when….”

To my light operator I don’t just say, “I didn’t see any mistakes in the lighting,” but, “That mood you created in scene…was wonderful.”

Routinely, I started with, “Great job!”

It received a, “Thanks, Dad.” Then I would follow up with specifics. Their faces lit up when I used specifics.

Of course, in fathering there are times requiring direct correction, but even then, we need to strive to balance the need to correct with compassion. We can’t forget about taking frequent opportunities to serve up valued praise.

I am not sure I always do well with this, but at the end of my earthly life, I hope the balance will be tipped sharply to the side of sincere praise over verbal punches or empty words. Especially when it comes to my own children.

Do you need to offer some sincere specific praise to your child?

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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