Raising Cheerleaders

I am about as introverted as people come. I am also chronically clumsy, and average looking at best. I was never cheerleader material. I wasn’t even interested. It never mattered until a couple of years ago when my husband and I were blessed to sit in on a behavior management class, which we desperately needed. The child was perpetually un-regulated, and it showed in every setting that she entered. Our first assignment in this class was to slather on the praise…not “good job” but truly effective, effusive, pre-emptive, affectionate praise. The directions were to find a moderately challenging situation (I think we picked toothbrushing) and see how different it would be if we praised our child for what they WERE doing instead of nagging them about what they weren’t doing. I wish I could say we saw an immediate change, but we did not…mostly because this Non-cheerleading Mom had a hard time figuring out how to sincerely and lavishly ladle out the praise when I was so frustrated. Thankfully we eventually learned more techniques and also received a lot of personal support that made it all click. I kid you not this saved our family big time.

Fast forward to the present…I am still not the best at telling my kids when I’m pleased with what they are doing. I am still no cheerleader. I’ve made the process my own with “high fives”, quiet thank yous, kisses and small rewards. I am also trying to spend one on one time with each child to let them know of my approval. What is remarkable is how much THEY have picked up the habit of praising and encouraging each other! It has become very noticeable this Summer – the first Summer that I have signed the twins up for their own cute little enrichment classes. My boy is taking a soccer class and my little girl is taking a dance class. The way our schedule works the two kids that are not “in class” still have to come a long and watch their sibling. At first I thought they would get too bored. I do ask them to bring a toy or something to do while they’re waiting, but the majority of the class time they are watching their sibling and yelling from the sidelines, encouraging them and smiling to see their sibling doing well. They aren’t just yelling “good job” either…they are giving specific praise: Great limbo dancing! Yay, he scored a goal! Good listening!

Today we were all doing a puzzle together – still a tough activity for the child – and it was lovely to hear them encouraging each other and making it a very positive activity.

I wish I could say it is always this way…we have our little squabbles of course, but my hope is that this practice of recognizing and praising the good in each other will be much more natural for my kids than it is for me.

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