S'iz nisht keyn chidush vas ihr geyt nisht hecher. Veyl s'iz nisht chashuv ba eykh keyn uvda.
It's no surprise that you haven't grown. Your accomplishments haven't been acknowledged. (Birchas Asher, Stolin, as explained to me by a Stoliner Rav)
Children thrive on success. It is the responsibility of parents and educators to look for and point out those successes. Without that acknowledgement, children do not grow.
Mom: I really don’t have time to stop and tell each of my children that they are playing nicely, reading quietly, or succeeding at something else as often as you think I should.
I hear that very often. Parents will spend time lecturing a child who misbehaves but haven’t the time to comment on good behavior even briefly, to tell a child something good.
It reminds me of a song lyric.
Tell me something good...
Got no time is what you're known to say
(from Tell Me Something Good, Rufus, 1974)
Chazal tell us that we must make time to express praise.
Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar said: some of a person’s praise should be said in his presence. (Eruvin 18b)
You should praise him in order to increase his good deeds when he sees that his achievements are praised. Also to multiply love and closeness, peace and affection. (Pele Yoetz, Shevach)
Lena Rustin, a speech therapist, used the power of praise to transform behavior. In addition to using speaking and breathing techniques, she focused on relationships. Her view was that to cure a stammer, she had to do more than help the child to speak fluently. She had to change the entire family environment. She told families that every day they must catch each member of the family doing something right and say so specifically, positively, and sincerely. Every member of the family, but especially the parents, had to learn to give and receive praise.
She created, within each home, an atmosphere of mutual respect and continuous positive reinforcement. This generated self-confidence, not just for the stammering child, but for all members of the family. The result was an environment in which people felt safe to change and to help others do likewise.
Praise gives people the confidence to reach their full potential. Especially children.
You often remind us of al pi darcho. What would be the best way to express praise to each child? What would be “good” for each child?
You will need to find out from each child. Here’s how.
Great managers know that each person must be motivated and developed differently. They follow the "Platinum Rule" as laid out by Dr. Tony Alessandra: Treat others the way they want to be treated. The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others. The focus of relationships shifts from "this is what I want, so I'll give everyone the same thing" to "let me first understand what they want and then I'll give it to them.”
For managers who are accustomed to a "one-size-fits-all" approach, keeping track of each employee's needs may seem overwhelming, so here is a tip: ask questions. Great managers ask their employees: Do they like public or private praise? Written or verbal? Who is their best audience? What is the most meaningful recognition you ever received?
Great managers help employees talk about how they feel. They ask: What have you felt excited about working on this past year? What can I do to provide more opportunities to feel this way? When have you felt most motivated about the work you have been doing? What can we do to create an environment where you feel like that more often? When have you felt that this company was one of the best places you ever worked? How can we make this the best place you have ever worked? (adapted from How the Best Managers Break 'The Golden Rule' Every Day, CliftonStrengths, Tim Simon, March 20, 2018)
Parents have many roles in the lives of their children. One of them is manager. Just replace the word manager with the word parent in the above paragraphs.
Even when you are speaking with your child about a failure, you can tell her something good.
Rebuke can be expressed in two different ways. One way reminds the person that her neshama came to her from above the Kisai Kavod... When she hears this kind of rebuke her heart will surely be moved in the right direction.
The other method stresses reminding people of the results of their failure to respond to the rebukes, the penalties in store for them.
The first method, through constantly pointing out virtues, will likely evoke in the listener a desire to conduct himself in a way that will justify the compliments paid to him by the person doing the rebuking. The person using the method of harping on the wrongs the people are guilty of all the time, cannot at the same time arouse the feeling that they are basically highly valued people in Hashem’s eyes who need only to correct a flaw that has been brought to their attention on this occasion. (based on Kedushas Levi, Bamidbar 20:8)
A word of caution. Pointing out a child’s virtues can be uplifting and it can be deflating.
You encourage a child who has failed when you tell him you think he will do better because you know he is a good person. You deflate him when you tell him he should have done better because he has done better in the past.
“I don’t want you to do that again. I think you can do better” is optimistic, it implies that he can grow. That’s something good.
“I don’t want you to do that again. You used to do better than that” is pessimistic, it says he is going downhill.
No one has enough time for everyone and everything. Each of us has to decide how to allocate our time. Parents need to carefully choose how much to allocate to their children. Within that allocation, acknowledgement and praise are essential. As often as possible, tell them something good.
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, dating, and parenting.
He is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575.