What do you do when things go right? When major milestones are reached? When stubborn behaviors give way to great new habits? You could reward your kids, but that can get exhausting after awhile. You could use praise, but research shows that verbal rewards can sometimes end up not being particularly effective. Here are a handful of joyful alternates that will help you as a parent let your child see your relief, delight and pleasure in their very important process of growing up.
Woohoo world! You'll have to test the waters and see if this is something your kids like or not. I learned this little form of celebration from a woman named Kirby who routinely opened windows and doors to shout to the world her happiness. Today Carter found his missing jacket and put it right back on the hook where it belonged. After an agonizing series of weeks where getting Carter to take responsibility for his clothes seemed like a herculean task, I felt a "Woohoo" was in order. I opened the back door and yelled for the whole neighborhood to hear, "Woohoo World! Carter put his jacket on the hook without being told!" Carter thought this was really funny and I felt great having a chance to put some volume to my relief that we are finally making progress in this area.
Let me tell you a secret. My kids love it if I call them over for a little whisper in the ear. I use these occasions to tell them how relieved, happy, delighted I am to see a specific way they are learning and growing. It's not praise per se; just an honest account of how i genuinely feel when I see they are conquering their developmental tasks. Ending my whisper with a hug lets my kids know that I'm noticing all the ways they are becoming people who care about their family, friends and neighborhood.
Total appreciation. Sometimes the nicest way to celebrate an accomplishment is with an old fashioned thank you note. Imagine what you would write if your kid was a co-worker who had really given that last project his best. When kids start to take responsibility for their schoolwork, possessions, living space or relationships, it's time to take notice. Make a list of the things that meant the most of you and close with a special thank you. Leave your gratitude note somewhere it can be discovered with joy.
Party down. When things are going well, it's totally worth it to you as a parent to make sure your kids know. Too often we wait for the wheels to fall off the wagon before we communicate how important things are to us. Go out for pizza, eat ice cream together out of the carton--do whatever it takes to communicate to your kids that life (and learning!) are worth celebrating.
These are just four ways to let your kids know that you notice all the ways they are learning, growing and engaging in the world. What else can we add to this list?