I admit I’m working on giving my kids more praise.  I know experts say nowadays to praise your kids four times for every time you correct them.  I think on average I might be doing way less than half of that…so technically I don’t praise my kids enough. But then experts say not to over-praise your kids.  You know, like overkill: “Ohhh sweetie, what a beautiful and magnificent square you drew!!  Oh is it a triangle?  Okay–well, how MARVELOUS!  You are SOOO smart!!!”

So, I’m working on some balance with that.

Meanwhile, my kids are buzzing around me, doing the normal stuff kids do- and surprising me with the out-of-the-blue gifts they just seem to pull out of their hearts and present to me when I least expect it.

Like my oldest, for example.  My ten year old has been practicing her piano this year…BUT only when I tell her to.  You know how it goes.  Kids think they want to play an instrument until they realize just how much work actually goes into learning how to play it.  Well, then came summer and because we’re on school break and I’m chillin’ when it comes to making her practice, I’ve just sort of forgotten all about it.

Surprisingly, though, I keep noticing this wonderful kid of mine running downstairs at all odd times of the day (like right before dinner or right after her nightly bath) with this all-consuming zest to  ask me something really, really, really important.  And her question?  “Mom!  Can I get on the piano????”  Um…yeah.  Go right on ahead.  And you know what?  She opens up her book to a song she’s never learned and I can just see those wheels turning in her head thinking: “I’m gonna figure this out if it’s the last thing I do before I go to bed”.  She clunks away on the piano until minutes  I can eventually hear a song emerging from her fingers and I. am. in. awe.

Even with awesome little surprises like that, though, I still sometimes find myself really consumed with our routine.  So my response?  “That’s really nice sweetie.  Okay, we really need to start getting ready for bed now”.

Okay, not only was that not overkill but it flew completely under the radar, undetected as an invisible, non-existing mommy-praise.  Praising my kids four times for every correction?  I barely praised her once for a day of no incidence for correction.  So…needless to say, I’ll be working on that one.

Here’s how the experts say to do it:

1. Show your approval.  So, I showed my approval.  But maybe I could have been a bit less distracted with cleaning the kitchen to actually let her know that I noticed and was proud of her.  After all, not getting after her about practicing the piano and witnessing her new exuberance about tackling this duty was enough to warrant my approval.  She needs to know it’s important to me, as much as it is to her.

2.  Describe the behavior.  Well, although I flopped on that one, it should be easy for me next time around.  Actually stopping what I’m doing long enough to look her in the eye and validate her by describing what I approve of- well that’s just a surefire way to let her know I care.  So I could have said, “You’re practicing the piano without my asking you to.”

3.  Give a reason.  And then I could have said “You’re letting me know how dedicated you are to learning how to play.  This means a lot to me and your dad.  Great job on tackling this song all by yourself.  We’ll sit down and help you with it on your next lesson.”

With my youngest daughter (age four), we’ve learned that we have to keep a constant visual in front of her at all times, mostly reward charts.  I’ll probably post a review soon about the one we are currently using, but you’ve probably seen it in stores everywhere- the Melissa and Doug wooden chart with smiley faces.  If I even so much as forget to praise her for one day about all of that day’s accomplishments, Zoe is really quick to lead me by the hand and take me to the chart, pointing all the things she’s done that day and how she needs for me to give her a smiley face for it- right now.

So yeah…our kids need lots of praise.  And sometimes as they get older they don’t always know how to ask for it.  Thankfully our younger ones are there to remind us how important it really is (four year olds have no concept of “shy” when it comes to requesting to get their needs met).

I’m glad I’m a mom-in-training.  I’ll always be learning and stretching and growing for the duration of my motherhood, and it’s relieving to know that I don’t have to be perfect- I only have to be perfectly willing to grow- and love my kids.