Friday, April 30, 2010

Distracted

"She took a bar of soap and headed for the fountain. She took off her clothes, letting them drop in the short grass, and then, wearing only the leather thong that held her knife, she sponged herself with cold water and soaped her body. She shouted to the man to bring her a towel. The government employees interrupted their work and, scythes in the air, began to watch".

I close my eyes for a minute -- I am the native girl in this story. Yes, that'll do it ...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good Praising!


Saying "Good Job" is like a nervous tic for me. I don't even realize that I'm saying it. I even remember having been proud that I had at one time replaced "good boy/girl", with enthusiastic "good jobs". And now I'm learning that praise is NOT good for kids. Rather than motivate, praise DE-motivates and can even wreak havoc on their esteem in the long run. This completely flies in the face of positive reinforcement!

Here's a summary of a great article that explains why praise is bad:

1. Sometimes it's about control. We know they're hungry for our approval so we praise them to get them to comply. I know this is manipulation because I do it in my marriage - yikes! This won't be easy, but I'm going to try looking closer at my motives to see if my comments are helpful or if I'm just trying to control them.

2. Creating praise junkies. I can see the dependency potential -- they know what pleases Mommy, so they behave a certain way to get more praise, feels like love, want more praise, etc. Sadly, I was that child hopping up and down yelling "look at me, look at me, did you see what I did?" Rather than feeling good about my own achievements, I didn't feel that it counted unless someone else saw it. In fact, this 'need for approval' is one of my biggest relationship hang-ups *sigh*. I DO NOT want this for my children.

3. Robbing them of the opportunity to figure things out on their own. That look of delight on my child's face when they are pleased with an accomplishment is so precious. But when I jump in with my own 'good job', I'm giving them my evaluation of what's good rather than letting them form their own judgements. Why as a parent do I always feel the need to provide my own commentary? "That was great" "Good __ing!" "I like your sharing". Why say anything? Who cares what I like anyway? It's not about me. Just being there for them and smiling says enough. I want to share in their joy, not have them share in mine. Wouldn't you rather hear "I did it!" than "Was that good?".

4. Losing out on the actual experience. I want my kids to enjoy and learn from an experience -- to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do rather than for an external reward. Research shows that kids who are dependent on praise don't learn to embrace the activity because they are so fixated on the end goal. They also lose interest in the activity once the praise subsides. I want my kids to enjoy life -- to be self-motivators, to have perseverance and to live in the moment, not do things because it pleases someone else.

The more I read about parenting, the more I get the sense that it's just best to back off! Be there for them when they need you, but let them navigate their own way. The business student (and control freak) in me says this is inefficient. But this is not about mastering a work task -- this is their childhood and they only get to live it once. They are not my proteg├ęs and this is not about me anymore. So rather than dole out empty praise I'm going to try and say less. I'll still be there to witness and share in their joy. But my feedback (when appropriate) will be descriptive ("You climbed to the top all by yourself") rather than about my feelings ("I'm so proud of you").

I think writing this helps put me on the right track with my praise habit. This really comes back to my overall advice on parenting -- do what's good for your child, not what's good for you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gratitude


It's come up a lot in the past year. Most people would consider themselves grateful -- who wants to be an ingrate? But how does one practice gratitude and is it really the key to happiness? I've never been one to embrace the concept of gratitude fully because I grew up being told to be grateful. My mother would warn me to show more gratitude or "the Lord would put you in a position of need and you'd end up crying for what you once took for granted". That kind of advice is right up there with being repeatedly told to not waste food because of the poor kids in Africa. So rather than look at gratitude as an insurance exercise, how can it really improve my relationships, make me a better person and also give my the illusive inner peace I so greatly desire?

I've read that when you are focused on being grateful for what you have, you're less likely to waste time thinking about what is lacking in your life. As I've learned this year, it's those 'wants' that can drive you crazy -- that make you look at your life with dissatisfaction and disdain. Your wants never satisfy you either because you'll always want something more no matter what you have. Wanting is bad - got it.

I'd like to have genuine feelings of gratitude on a daily basis. Some effort is required:
Compassion is a good start. There's nothing like opening your heart and trying to feel another person's pain to make you feel grateful for what you have. That sounds awful -- it should not be the reason we support our loved ones, but it's there in the back of your head -- "thank gawd I am not you".

I've learned this year that to express gratitude feels really good -- I mean REALLY GOOD. Just today I thanked a friend and I could feel a nice warm smile inside me. I can also see the effect it has on the person who feels appreciated. Who wants to be taken for granted?

Sometimes when I'm hosting my own pity party, it's tough to find much to be grateful for -- health, family, career, friends, blah, blah, blah. Yes, it's the same old list, but I shouldn't forget that those are my priorities! Being grateful endears me to them more. Suddenly the little pissoff daily annoyances don't matter when you stop to think about what you love about your life.

Lets not forget being grateful for the little things as well. I find that the added benefit is that it keeps me more present. I would hardly call myself an observant person, but when I take the time to notice and appreciate life's little things, like that all my family members are peacefully sleeping right now which gives me a few minutes of quiet, or that today was perfect Spring weather and I got to spend a good chunk of it outside or that I was able to help my child calm herself down without losing my patience for the first time in a long time ... I could seriously go on and on here ... it just makes me love life more.

Being grateful keeps me satisfied -- what I have is enough.

Friday, April 9, 2010

You're Beautiful!

While out for a run the other night, I turned the corner and almost ran into a man who was clearly drunk. After I apoligized for startling him, he shouted after me "Don't be sorry -- YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL!" Sad to say those words really made my day. Thank you drunk strange man.