This past week has been a brutally stressful week as far as parenting goes. Now we’re a couple of days into our next psycho-cycle, so if history is any indication, I think we’ll have a couple of months of relative peace – which, in this family, means crackling tension bubbling away under the surface of every single activity, meal, or conversation – but at least we’re not due for another eruption anytime soon.
During these couple days of post-eruption lull, I’ve been taking a refresher course (read: watching youtube videos) on parenting techniques specific to traumatized kids. One point that all the experts agree on is finding positive things to praise your kid for. I agree with this in theory, but most of the examples I’ve come across are more suitable for kids under the age of six or so. Read this in a high, excited voice: “Oh, Little Johnny, I am so proud of you for walking all the way to the car and buckling yourself in all by yourself! You are getting so big and independent! What an amazing little boy you are!”
That kind of praise would not work well with my teenager. It would be received as sarcasm (because, make no mistake, it would be delivered as sarcasm – that is, after all, my love language). It would ignite hours of back-talk, slamming doors, stomping around the house and shoving people out of the way. It would not build his self-esteem or be an encouragement in any conceivable way.
Don’t get me wrong. I do look for positive things to point out. But I have to be very subtle about it. Very subtle. I have to speak his love language, which is grunting. I am learning. Some days I can praise him and instead of yelling at me, he grunts back. This is progress.
But there’s still something to be said for all that lavish, over-the-top, barely believable praise that I can’t use on my kid. So I’ve decided to use it on myself. Yes, that’s right. The remainder of this post is going to be my own list of ridiculously exuberant, praising self-talk. Feel free to repeat it aloud for your own benefit if you need a pick-me-up. Better yet, let’s all wander around proclaiming these things for all to hear. Maybe it’ll catch on and our spouses and kids will take up the chant!
“I am so proud of you for brushing your teeth without being asked this morning! You even brushed for a full minute. The way you take care of your own oral hygiene is an example that everyone should follow!”
“I am so proud of you for cleaning out and sorting through your email inbox! Look at all those neat little files where you stashed all that email clutter. Such amazing organizational skills! Such meticulous mail management! You deserve a medal!”
“I am so proud of you for getting almost all the things on your grocery list today. It’s not your fault that the store was out of your razor brand of choice. And it’s completely understandable that you didn’t want to walk aaaaallllll the way back through the store just to get lettuce when you noticed it was still on your list. Who needs lettuce anyway? You got almost everything else, and that near-thoroughness is commendable!”
“I am so proud of you for not punching anyone today! Considering how many annoying people are surrounding you at any given moment, you have displayed monumental self-restraint. I wish everyone around you would understand just how lucky they are to be in your illustrious presence!”
“I am so proud of you for your literary genius! Your wit is astoundingly sharp! Your depth of wisdom knows no end! You have perfected the balance of when to elaborate and when to be brief! Your overuse of exclamation points is in and of itself a humorous tool that you wield with perfection! And I am constantly amazed by your ability to respond with grace when your readers don’t get your humour!”
Ahhhh, that felt good. You should try it. Having trouble? Just let me know what you did today that is worthy of praise, and I’ll lay it on thick for you.