Counseling Corner: Do your kids really know you feel about them?

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As parents we normally have many feelings and emotional reactions related to our children. Of course we love them, and are happy for them, and sometimes are driven crazy by them, but one of the things research has shown is that we often do a poor job of communicating these feelings to our children, especially how proud they make us.

From a parentís perspective this might seem an unfair criticism. Itís easy to believe that, of course, you are proud of your children and so, of course, they know how you feel. But the reality is that more often what a child will absorb are those times when you say something critical. When your child knows he or she has done something wrong, or has fallen short of your expectations, this tends to make the strongest impression. And this is especially true if you arenít effectively communicating the pride you feel for your son or daughter.

One key to making such communication work is to avoid offering praise for things that really arenít challenging and really arenít much of an accomplishment. Such praise ends up devaluing all of your praise, turning it into background noise that means little and that your kids will ignore.

To communicate your feelings of pride more effectively, focus on the process rather than simply the outcome. A parent offering praise to a child who is working hard and putting in extra effort is usually heard and appreciated. This type of praise highlights their trying and initiative, rather than just focusing only on the results. When children are praised for putting in extra effort, it becomes a reward that reinforces the work theyíre doing and makes it likely they will continue to try hard in the future.

You want to find a balance between offering too little or too much praise. As a parent you need to recognize when a child is pushing himself or herself to attempt something new or to persevere when something gets a little harder. This is when a compliment will be heard and will let your child know youíre truly proud of their efforts.

Children donít automatically know how proud their parents are of them. For children to know about that pride, and to benefit from it, that pride needs to be communicated effectively.

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