Praise and encouragement

No one ever learns to climb a mountain through being constantly criticized, told they are stupid, or through rejection, abuse, beatings or punishment, so why, oh why are so many children treated this way? 

It makes no intuitive sense, in fact it makes no sense at any level at all.

Probably one of the worst common expressions to use with a child is, 'We'll see.' The conditional situation of a possible treat based on an adult assessment of the situation and the child's behaviour creates anxiety and uncertainty. Of course constantly calling a child clumsy, stupid, a nuisance (1) or whatever is duly absorbed and produces precisely the effect named. 

It's curious and tragic that many people seem to treat praise and encouragement as finite commodities which should be used sparingly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Alternatively there often seems to be an element of competition, giving out something that the giver is so desperate for they have none to spare for anyone else. 

There is a little secret to praise and encouragement, the more its used the better it gets. To see anyone, but especially a child, grow a little taller, try something a little harder, to want to go on and be and do more, is very special. There is almost nothing that can't be praised, a fine painted blue tree, a stodgy pile of mud, a washed face, a slightly missed tooth brushing with a little chin smear of toothpaste, a spoonful of food, a cheer for a good old bite on an apple. It really doesn't matter, it just works. 

Through tone of voice, smiling and language, praise and encouragement, these all affirm what children do best, to explore, devour and go for life.

There is also the very real truth that praise takes so much less energy than criticism and negative attitudes, just as a smile takes much less muscle effort than a frown. This is also true of the resulting effect, compare a happy child with a crying one. As they say in America, do the math. 

2011 Keith Lindsay-Cameron.