I’ve been reading Dr. Kevin Lehman’s book Have a New Kid by Friday. It’s an excellent resource. Yes, our son is a grown man living over a thousand miles away. However, I work with children on a regular basis. Plus, because our son is a wonderful young man who gave us little trouble as we were raising him, people often ask us for parenting advice. Dr. Lehman’s book does a good job of putting what we tried to do in easy-to-understand language.
One of the things he talks about is the difference between praise and encouragement. To me this is a perfect example of parenting advice that works for everyone in your daily world. Praise is tied to performance—you did that well. Encouragement is about the person—your hard work paid off; you’re good at that. That’s a small distinction, but it’s so very important.
I grew up believing that what I did is what made me loveable. I wasn’t praised for effort or for simply being me. I was praised almost exclusively for winning/succeeding. The logical conclusion I drew was that if I didn’t win or succeed, I wasn’t loveable. (In all fairness, my parents really were doing their best. Neither received much praise or encouragement as they were growing up.)
I think this very thing is the reason so many people are afraid to try new things. They are afraid to miss the mark because they are afraid they will become unlovable.
I really enjoy cooking, and I’m a very good cook. I am sometimes praised for a particular dish. My nutty green beans are one of my pastor’s favorites. I get all kinds of kudos on my manicotti and lasagna. And, of course, my cookies are fantastic—ask any of my son’s friends. Every once in a while I make something completely inedible. It’s okay with me when The Furry Guy says that a new recipe doesn’t make the grade. That’s because I’ve received plenty of encouragement from him through the years. He tells me I’m a really good cook. He tells others what a wonderful cook I am. That gives me the confidence I need to try new things. I can fail at a new recipe because I know it won’t cause The Furry Guy to think less of me.
Praise feels good in the moment. Encouragement fuels a person’s self-confidence and self-image. The words we choose have great power. Do your best to encourage those around you today.