What rubbish? You may wonder. Often our age old belief that, ‘kids will be spoiled (become carefree or less responsible) by praising’ also stop us from carrying out this much needed activity.
The overwhelming response to my book – IT’S OKAY TO FAIL, MY SON, from parents and teachers have given me an opportunity to study one more aspect of relationships between parents and their growing wards. Often, parents and elders e.g. teachers have complained of children / students not listening to them. Their attempts to guide, correct their mistakes often meet with the unexpected resistance from the younger ones. Result? Increase in worries of already worried elders, and sometimes hurting their sentiments too. Most of the parents have confessed that, well intended effort on their part to guide / help has resulted in an unexpected friction. If you have faced similar situations with your little loved ones, read on.
But, before you move on further, I would like you to pause and think. How many times in last one month or a week, you have given the advice or directions to your child and how many times you have praised them for their work / efforts? The most likely answer would be a huge imbalance in the two numbers. Parents often miss out on showering generous praises on their wards. To know why, let us analyse reasons for the overdose of advices and almost negligible amount of praise we offer to our kids?
- Age old belief: Most elders believe; ‘if you praise kids, they could become complacent or worse may be spoiled’. This belief stops most parents and at times teachers and other elders to praise the kids. We have inherited this belief from our elders, so I do not wish to blame current generation of parents for it.
- What is there to praise? : One more behavioral thought. Kids are doing what they are supposed to do, so what is there to praise. ‘sar pe nahni bithana unko’ (don’t make them sit on your head). We as parents are slogging hard and providing all the comforts and facilities, so they are supposed to do their part; study, provide support in household chores etc.
- Formalities have no place in a family: Often parents consider praising as a formality which should not have a place in the family.
Above are few. There could be many more reasons why parents do not praise or let’s say fail to praise their kids. The problem starts here. Let’s understand how a growing teenager’s mind thinks.
You would notice changes in behavioral patterns of your child after the age of 12. Till that time, they are your ‘adarsh’ (ideal) kids; following all your advices, doing what you want them to do and offering least of the resistance if you fulfill their key demands. Generally this suits most of us so it’s a happy phase of parents – children relationship.
But, as child enters the teenage, there is definite change in their behaviour; they offer counter arguments to most of your suggestions / advices, want of logical explanation for all of your advices, and if not convinced aggressive display of defenses which often either surprise / shock the parent and sometimes even hurt them. You also come across situations where you suddenly start finding an unfamiliar, unpredictable and bent on being different kind of teenage child. Couple of times, you experience such situations and you start wondering ‘where have I gone wrong while parenting my beloved?’ Often I have come across parents, particularly mothers, who usually have higher amount of interactions with the growing ones, living in a state of hurt and agony, unable to decide what must have gone wrong?
Here is good news for all the parents! You can shrug off your worries about future of your growing child or whether you have failed in parenting. You are facing a normal psychological phenomenon associated with the growth of your child.
- Identity establishment: As young ones enter the teenage, they want to establish their identity, to themselves as well as to others around. That is the reason; parents face resistance to their advices, often in the form of counter arguments such as ‘I am grown up now’, ‘I can take my own decisions’, ‘do you still think I am a kid or what?’ etc. As a matured parent, you need to support her / him in this process by encouraging them to take harmless decisions.
- Brain development and teenager: The process of brain development in a human being completes at the age of 20. While brain develops fully at the age of 5, establishing connections between different parts take time, which fully develop at 20. The last part to be developed is pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for judgement, decision making and impulse control. Till the age of 20, the functions associated with pre-frontal cortex are being handled by a part of the brain called Amygdala, which is usually associated with emotions control. That is the reason why teenagers are usually seen trapped somewhere between childhood and adulthood, in grips of confusing emotions and impulsive behaviour.
- Emotional Interpretation: As per research conducted by Mclean Hospitals, Massachusetts ‘teenagers are less adept at recognizing facial expressions’. This is due to incomplete development of pre-frontal cortex. Often Concern is misjudged as Anger and Worry as Disappointment. This also explains teenager getting upset (sometimes angry), with parents, after they discover mother waiting anxiously in balcony after they arrive home after late night party.
- Reward circuitry in brain: Have you ever wondered why teenagers love playing games, particularly on mobiles? Because rewards are immediate outcome of success at any game, be it a volley ball or a mobile game. The reward circuitry in a human brain performs at its peak during the teenage.
What is the relationship between praise and all of above, you may wonder? There is a strong relationship between praise and well-being of your child, because with one praise you prove to your child that;
- You are not a nagging parent, who only knows to find faults of the ward and throw advices (mostly unsolicited) but you are balanced and fair in your approach.
- By genuinely praising your kids, you also ensure that, you develop a bond of trust and confidence between both of you. This can further result into a good friendship where your children may start sharing their details with you and seek support / guidance whenever they are confused or uncertain. In this way, you can protect them from harmful decisions and situations / vices.
- By praising with open heart, you touch upon a reward circuitry of the teenage, which can motivate them for more positive actions.
So, what are you waiting for? Just go ahead and share your love and affection through a genuine praise. Ensure you have as many praises as numbers of advices or criticisms you offer to your child and see the change of response for yourself!