I’ve thought some more about praise and want to share some of my ruminations. They’re rough — feel free to add your own thoughts on this topic.
In my last post, I talked about the powerful beneficial effect of having someone say just the right thing at just the right time. That’s a long way from “unconditional positive regard.”
We should respect the gifts of others all the time. Of course we should. If your child is a gifted student, you should do whatever you can to help him or her achieve educational goals. If your child is socially gifted, you should treat that as something worthy of respect as well. Same goes for your friends. We should all do what we can to encourage everyone we know to succeed at what they want to do.
However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to say to every child every day “I think you are wonderful. You are a very special person. I love you just the way you are.” I think it produces children with lots of self-esteem, but no self-respect. Does it really show adequate appreciation for the individual’s gifts? Not to mention that “unearned” praise raining down on you cannot begin to compete with the praise you earn.
You know the people who gush over you all the time? Don’t you begin to feel manipulated? Doesn’t it feel like it comes from their need to be loved and not an appreciation they feel for you? Does it even matter what they say to you?
The most valuable compliment you can get is the one that comes from a person whose judgment you trust, and that validates something you believe or will believe and value, about yourself. It comes at a time when it is needed. I wouldn’t be remembering Miss Gurley’s comment if it hadn’t come on the heels of a nightmare year with Miss Martin.
It doesn’t need to come in a greeting card, or with flowery language. It can be matter-of-fact and simple. If it is heart-felt and honest, if it reflects a deeper understanding of who the other person really is, and is dispensed sparingly, I think it can work some magic. It can change that person’s view of who he is what he can do.
When I say I’m going to attempt to say these things more to the wonderful people in my life, I don’t mean I’m going to “say something nice to somebody every day.” What I mean is that I’m not going to let one of those opportunities go by through neglect or laziness. When it’s there, I’m going to say it.