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National Editorials & Columns

Sincere and honest praise encourages us to keep working

Literacy is work and like any kind of work needs encouragement from time to time. Sincere and honest praise encourages us to keep working toward goals.

Sometimes we aren’t sure how to praise, just as we often don’t know how to receive praise. To be most encouraging praises need to be as specific as possible. Too often we want to insert a “but” to the praise which erodes its impact.

Comments such as good, excellent, etc. cause confusion.  Am I good because I got an answer right?  Then I must be bad if I get it wrong.  If I am excellent when I win a game, am I bad if I don’t? 

A child knows instinctively whether you make a sincere remark or not.  Being creative in your praise is worth the effort.

Letting anyone know you noticed and took the time to comment makes a difference in their lives.

“I notice how much your oral reading has improved; have you noticed?” 

“I really enjoy reading with you; sometimes I think you understand better than I do.”

“I certainly appreciate the way you listen, so I know you are looking at ways to solve the problem.”

“Let’s call (Grandma, Dad, Joe, Jane, etc.) and tell him/her how well you did on your science project (etc.).”

“This is the best idea I’ve heard yet.”

“What a remarkable job you are doing in organizing your social studies project.”

“I really admire your imagination in the story you wrote.” “You figured the math problem out all by yourself — I just knew you could do it.”

Vague praise or outlandish praise doesn’t fool anyone. I’d rather be told, “You look so nice today in your outfit,” rather than, “You are beautiful.”  I have looked in the mirror and I know truth.

Do remember to praise behavior, not personality. Children need specific feedback on what they do right.  Self-image is closely identified with accomplishments.

Praise progress so the child knows he is heading in the right direction. Praise in a variety of ways and with different intensity.  Be sure and praise at times with hugs and kisses, secret signals, even joking (provided the child is comfortable with it).

I still remember one praise given me by a college golf instructor. He said, “You have improved at least fifty per cent the way you swing your club.” I knew hitting the ball was the idea but his praise made me feel like I would someday be able to do it correctly.

It is best to praise immediately.  Placing notes in a lunch box, etc. lightens up a day. Be sure your children hear you tell someone else how well they are doing in a specific area.

Be sure your child knows the difference between unconditional love and praises. Allow your child to learn from his/her failures and that failure is OK.

One elephant in the room that concerns many of us and that literacy can help is noting the warning signs of suicides in ourselves or others.  This tragedy can’t always be averted, but it sometimes can be caught and a person saved. 

More girls and women attempt suicide while more boys and men complete it. Suicides happen as early as twelve and though older people may commit suicide, those teen years when everyone else seems to have control, when bullying is so prevalent, and when circumstances seem the end are when it happens most.

If a friend or relative has chosen that route, the teen may see it as a solution.  Notice danger signals such as emotional changes, behavioral changes, withdrawal, or changes in personality. 

If you notice someone putting their affairs in order or seeming to say good-bye in unusual places or seeming preoccupied with death, dark poetry, or such don’t let the opportunity pass to deal with a potential tragedy.  Part of loving friends or family is noticing changes, not ignoring them.

Sometimes we forget to use stress techniques to help ourselves, but I wonder how many consciously teach children how stress affects them. I recently reviewed a stress list created years ago for a class.  Some were scary such as aggression and suicide — two sides of the same coin.

Listed were obvious ones such as emotional release through crying or hitting and harder to recognize ones such as overcompensating, depression, withdrawing, quitting, leaving the situation or conforming.

One of my ways to deal with stress is over-compensation; I just work harder and harder so I reach the mark which can become an obsession.  Compromising can be a good stress technique or a bad one if we compromise our values.

Running away is sometimes healthy if someone threatens us, but sometimes we may use verbal or physical aggression which is seldom healthy.  Most of us have been accused of daydreaming which has good aspects and bad ones.

Some stress techniques are always harmful such as drugs, crime, and suicide.

We develop stress techniques that aren’t always healthy. We need to learn a variety of healthy stress techniques and choose them according to our situation. Simple things like doing something we like, enjoying a hobby, talking to someone, taking time to look at the positive things in our life, our faith walk, volunteering — all lead to stress relief that doesn’t harm us or anyone else and enables us to do better and feel better about what we do.

Until next week — Christine Pauley

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