I once read an article about a Native American tribe that educated its children in social responsibility and manners in a very unique way: the elders were always alert for the right things a child did and they always took the time to comment on them.
Little Running Deer, without thinking about it, flips the teepee flap closed as he is rushing outside to play. “Thank you for caring about the warmth and safety of your mother and little sister, Running Deer. Closing up your home before leaving is very responsible of you,” comments an uncle passing by.
Heart swelling with pride, the youngster carries on… but is thoughtful of closing teepee flaps from here on out. Why? Because deep down he really does care about his family and now it is recognized, not to mention that he now has a way to manifest it.
Contrast this with a more typical modern family scenario: little Johnny bolts from the dinner table to go outside and play. Mom yells out for him to close the door behind him… and by the way, he is always forgetting to close the door and the heating bill was out the roof because of him and “how do you expect me to buy you all those video games you’re bugging me about if I’m spending all my hard-earned money on bills you are running up by your thoughtless behavior, you just don’t care about the rest of the family, do you…”
No enhanced awareness of social responsibility will be gained with that kind of communication. As a matter of fact, probably the only message that Johnny will get is that it’s time to tune mom out, ignore her ranting and get on with life ASAP, preferably as far away from her as possible.
Have you ever been handled by a boss who was constantly pointing out your shortcomings? Did it inspire you to do a better job? Did you ever really want to do what he or she told you to do?
On the flip side, have you ever had the fortunate circumstance of working for someone who appreciated your efforts and pointed them out to you and others? What was your attitude about working hard with and for this person?
Warning: there is a fine line to watch for as in teachers who are saccharine sweet with “praise” for a project that is clearly below a student’s capability. They are doing much more harm than good just as a boss who compliments you on a shoddy job will only engender a quiet disrespect.
Your recognition of the right things is much more powerful than you may believe and there is a miraculous side benefit. You will feel good too. Your capacity to recognize and communicate about the good things your children are doing actually proves your own rightness in this crazy and often confusing world.