Lesson 2 – Praise the Child vs. Praise the Action
The second most important lesson we learned while raising Aarohi was how to show her that we were proud of her achievements, however, small or big? This is a very tricky one. It is very important for the psychological growth of any child to know that what they put their efforts into is appreciated. It encourages them to become better at what they do and to pursue new opportunities fearlessly. It builds their confidence and gives them a very positive outlook on life. Minor disclaimer: the way we interact with Aarohi is not the only way to raise kids. We’re just listing the things that we tried with her and got positive results. These are things that worked with Aarohi and since every child is unique, each one has to be raised differently. What works with Aarohi may completely backfire with other kids. Also, it takes a lot of patience and strong will to see these through and they don’t immediately start working.
Every kid takes a lot of time to adjust to their parents behavior and everyday is a brand new adventure.
So why is it such a tricky thing to do? Well, the reason for this is because if a parent praises the child in the wrong way, instead of becoming confident, the kid becomes arrogant. This is another pitfall we’ve seen so many parents falling into. When their kids do something that they love, the parents shower them with compliments on how great they were in achieving it. This makes the kid feel great about it and they do it again and again. Soon they become very good at it and this is what every parent wants for their child. What they totally miss is that in the process the child starts feeling that since they are so good at doing it, nobody else can do it better. In another case, the child feels that the thing that they’ve achieved is great only because they achieved it and not because it’s a great thing in itself. We’ve seen so many kids tease other kids who are trying to achieve the same thing just because they think they are the only ones who are good at achieving it. This creates a bitter rivalry between children and leads to unhealthy competition. This is another thing we stay far away from when interacting with Aarohi.
This creates a bitter rivalry between children and leads to unhealthy competition.
As parents, the way we approach this is to praise the achievement rather than praising Aarohi for achieving it. For example, Aarohi loves painting. We’ve always given her the environment in the house where she often sees me painting. This made her curious about learning how to do that. Soon enough she convinced me to teach her how to paint and I started by drawing cartoon characters, which we would paint together. With time she got better at it. Whenever she would paint a character with me, I would tell her how amazing her painting was and how proud I was that she painted so well. Then we would let the painting dry and show it to her mother, my wife Snehal. She would repeat the same exercise by showering her with hugs and kisses and repeating how proud she felt about her achievement. This way Aarohi would feel great about the act of painting without feeling that she’s the only one who can paint as well as she does. So many times we’ve seen her while playing with her friends where they paint something and along with showing us her own painting, she would show us how well her friend has painted.
Whenever she would paint, I would tell her how amazing her painting was and how proud I was that she painted so well.
Similarly, for her Ballet, we always tell her how great her dancing is rather than what a great dancer she is. Anytime she practices pottery, we say what a great sculpture she’s made, instead of telling her what a great sculptor she is. When she is engaged in outdoor activities with her friends, Hi-5s are flying all the time and we appreciate how well she played as opposed to what a great athlete she is. Over the years what we’ve seen is that due to this way of appreciation, Aarohi never shows any sign of arrogance when it comes to the activities she takes part in. She doesn’t feel that she’s better than her pals. In fact, on one occasion, during a race she waited for her friend to start before she herself started running. She’s only interested in participating and doesn’t care about winning or losing because we never encourage her saying that she has to perform better than others. This way she never gets discouraged about anything and loves taking part in any activity without worrying about how well she’s going to perform.
Due to this way of appreciation, Aarohi never shows any sign of arrogance when it comes to the activities she takes part in.
The other side to this is what do we do in case Aarohi is not able to achieve what she set out to? Actually, the more important question is what do we NOT do in such a case? Well, first of all, we do not tell her that she could’ve done better. Even when she doesn’t perform well, we always tell her that she did great. It is very important to make sure we never, and I repeat, NEVER criticize her. The only reaction she gets from us is – try again. This way she never feels bad about her failures. Instead of us telling her to try and do better, she comes and tells us that she wants to try again because she feels that she can do better. This way with repeated efforts she eventually gets better at what she is trying to achieve. There are so many times she comes to us saying that she didn’t win. We always take her in our arms and ask, “but did you have fun doing it?” and tell her, “the only important thing is that you have fun and don’t worry about winning or losing.” This way if she realizes that she had fun doing it, she comes back to us saying that she wants to try again and sure enough eventually she becomes good at it and wins.
It is very important to make sure we never, and I repeat, NEVER criticize her.