I am often guilty of appreciation deprivation. Yes. Me. I have a very bad habit.
And my kids love to remind me how often I am guilty!
When they were little, I would praise them for every little accomplishment. Great job! Nice work! I’m so proud of you! Did you do that all by yourself?
My expectations were fairly easy to meet, and they met them.
However, as they have grown into teenagers, my expectations have grown as well, and my accolades have often, unconsciously, like most bad habits, turned into criticism.
Recently, after telling my daughter to clean her room, she huffed and said “Why should I bother, I never do it right anyway!” My heart sank. Though my intention was to help her learn the “right way” to get it done, I was much too quick to point out all the ways she did it wrong, and what I ended up creating was a resentful kid who didn’t even want to try.
What did I do?
After becoming aware of what I was doing, I forgave myself. An important first step.
Second, I took responsibility for my ‘snafu’ and explained to her that I really do appreciate how hard she worked to clean her room. And then I got specific about what I appreciated. Nice job organizing your closet! Great folding of your laundry…love the way your bookshelves look. I bet it took a long time to clean out your desk! Her reactivity calmed as I offered genuine appreciation.
Third, though appreciation is necessary medicine, it was important to me not ignore the ‘big picture’.She still needed to complete the job.After telling her all the things I appreciated, we talked about what still needed to be done.
In a relaxed state of mind, she was much more willing to take in my feedback and get back to work. We had set up a new relationship around this task and I suspect she was excited to receive more positive feedback when she finished.
It’s so much easier to be motivated to do a good job when we are feeling appreciated by those around us.
I am now developing a new habit and building a new muscle by doing appreciation “reps”. I make it my practice to catch my kids doing something good and appreciate them for it.
I really appreciate you for helping your brother when he asked you for help. I so appreciate how you were ready on time and in the car without my asking. I appreciate when you resist the urge to yell at your sister even when she is being mean to you. I appreciate it when you remember to put your dishes in the dishwasher.
If you truly look, you will find so many more things to appreciate than not. And watch out, because it is contagious. In fact, it’s become a bit of a game!
At the dinner table, running errands, driving home together, spend the next 24 hours playing the appreciation game and see how good you are at noticing.
After all, what we pay attention to grows. So why not grow a little more love and gratitude?
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