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Loving Guidance

Tips on how to set limits on behavior, instill values, and lower your stress while disciplining without punishment.

Praising children: Manipulation or celebration?

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 22 March 2022

In recent years, several writers have recommended that parents abstain from praise as well as criticism. They see praise as a form of parental manipulation of the child's behavior: more subtle than blame and criticism but harmful nonetheless.

I have certainly seen parents using praise in this way, but I have also seen it take place in a way that I consider normal and healthy. After much thought and discussion with colleagues, I've come to believe that avoidance of praise in total is "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." 

No punishments, no rewards, no praise

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 3 March 2022

A subtle, but important, factor affecting the development of children's self-esteem is when parenting gets conditional. Connecting a child's behavior (and thereby his sense of self) with extrinsic factors affects his dignity. 

Doling out a reward tells a child, "You are only worth this much." Issuing a consequence causes her to view mistakes as negative reflections of herself. So writes Barbara Coloroso in her book Kids Are Worth It.

Stay connected to build self-esteem

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 3 March 2022

In the presence of a trusted adult, kids feel free to be themselves. They feel comfortable and confident in expressing who they are when they know they will not be judged or ridiculed. 

It is important that we give our kids plenty of opportunities to express themselves through both their language and behavior, and to simply accept them. We need to shift the focus away from changing the behavior over to acceptance and connection. Some ways to stay connected and get to know your child include:

Listen for understanding

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 3 March 2022

Effective listening involves more than just saying, "I'm listening." To show that we are actively listening to our children and that we love them, we listen for understanding. 

If you hear and you understand, don't just say so. Prove it. Demonstrate that you hear what your child is telling you by:

  • Repeating back what he is saying
  • Helping him identify feelings, and
  • Asking him questions about what he is saying.

Such responses are much more effective at conveying a message of love than simply telling him, "I hear you. I understand." 

Let your kids make mistakes

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 3 March 2022

So often as parents, we try to prevent our kids from making mistakes. We issue warnings, reach out to help, or just do a job ourselves because we don't want the hassle of cleaning up after a mistake. 

Mistakes can assume such forms as a spill, fall, or ill-considered decision: all valuable and necessary in a child's developing self-esteem! How we handle mistakes throughout a child's growing career can teach him that challenges are either threats to be avoided or opportunities to learn and develop strong mastery skills.

Stop labeling, even if positive

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 3 March 2022

Forget about labeling.

This may be difficult, especially when we're all trying to understand our children and learn who they are. Being able to define their characteristics makes us better able to parent them, but even labels that may not seem negative may still cause a child to define himself and increase the likelihood of that behavior, according to Dr. William Sears in his book The Successful Child.