I was recently reading an article about the tendency of today’s parents to over praise their children. The author appeared to be suggesting that repeatedly telling a child how wonderful they are can leave them self centered and unable to deal with criticism. Moreover it appears to lose its impact on the child. She suggested being specific with children about what they did well, rather than stating ,”good job.” I read it, didn’t feel it applied to me, so I tossed it away, and didn’t think much of it till last Sunday.
We went as a family to Ry’s AYSO soccer game. This was his third game with the “Blue Unicorns” and I was genuinely proud of his play. I loved watching him turn on the speed and dribble the ball towards the goal and aggressively go after the ball. I’ve learned to restrain my self from cheering and directing Ry from the sidelines. I’ve learned that this behavior in the soccer culture generates fears that a parent will turn into the belligerent, drunken, former athlete who wants his kid to make up for his lost ambitions. You’ve seen him. He’s the guy who yells and shouts at 5-6 year olds for missing a shot or at the coaches for not playing their kid; or better yet gets into a chest bumping contest with another dad. So now, I slap some duck tape across my mouth and mumble a cheer for the team to do well.
As we left the game and walked to the van, I let Ry know I was proud of him and thought he played a great game. I tried to respond as a good parent should according to the self help book, “101 Ways To Appear To Sincerely Praise Your Children.” They suggest using phrases that have been tested and proven to make you appear to be a caring, responsive parent. “Bend down, look him in the eye, gently put your hand on his shoulder and say, good job—–(insert name).”
He responded rather indifferently, which I found surprising. I could hear my inner child saying, ” “do you know how many kids would love to have their parents notice they exist, let alone tell them they had a great game? Don’t you see I’m being the ideal parent?” But I restrained myself and then he asked “what did you like seeing me do in the game?”That was easy. I talked about his sideline kick, overhead pass, goals, and his ability to work with a group of kids and coaches that have played together previously. He just smiled, took my hand, and I lifted him into the van.