My daughter is a joy. She is responsible, hard-working, and rarely gives me any trouble at all. “Sarah,” I tell her often, “thank you for being such a wonderful child.”
Well, I had a talk with Sarah the other night, after I realized that my praise was actually coming across to her as parental pressure — pressure to fit the role of the good and obedient child. The poor girl told me she felt like she couldn’t fully express herself because everyone expected her to be so sweet. I knew I had to reconsider the way I was treating her. I became determined to rephrase the praise I give my daughter so she wouldn’t feel the parental pressure I was unintentionally putting on her.
Praise beyond the assigned role.
Without meaning to, I had assigned my daughter to the role of “the good girl.” While it’s great that she does so well in so many areas, what’s not so great is that the good girl role limits her. She felt like if she showed anger at me, irritation with her friends, or even exposed an unexpected take on humor, she wouldn’t be as loved or liked.
What role have you assigned your daughter? Is she the capable big sister? The cute one? The athlete? The scholar? Again, there is good in each of those but look for praise beyond her current role. In my daughter’s case, I might look for ways to praise her when she does speak her mind.
Praise the process not the end product.
Instead of, “Your hair looks so pretty.” Try, “You have really figured out how to use that flat iron.” Instead of “That’s a beautiful picture you colored!” Say, “Oh, my goodness, look at the way you blended those two crayon colors. The combination is amazing.”
Praise the present without looking to the past.
A moment of praise can turn sour when you drag in past failures. “Honey, you have come such a long way since the days you’d go three or four games without scoring a goal.” Or, “Wow! Now that’s the way to put an outfit together. You never would’ve figured that out last year.”
Praise her efforts not your feelings.
We are all proud of our daughters for many reasons. And that’s okay. But when we really want to give impactful praise, keep the focus on her. “You must be so proud of getting an A on that science test after working so hard to prepare for it.” That kind of compliment keeps the praise directed to her efforts.
If you say, “I am so proud of you for getting an A. I am thrilled.” Again, there’s nothing wrong with making that your secondary praise, but the moment is hers, not yours.
Of course, there is always room for a “You look so pretty!” Or a “You are one smart girl.” Straight up compliments like these have a place in the mix. But the majority of our praise should be directed to our daughter’s effort because that’s what will last. As she grows into a woman we want her to feel secure about the aspects of herself over which she has the most control — her attitude, her efforts, and her choices in life.
Make sure to write your praise and truths down for her to read. Along with praising your daughter, find time to spend together. Use this Mother Daughter Bucket List to make some memories.
How do you praise your daughter?