Have you seen this video?
As I watched it, I thought the video concept was novel, but didn’t otherwise think about it until I chanced upon this article on MindChamps preschool’s I’m Proud of You festival later that evening.
Coming across both in the same day left me intrigued – do we really need campaigns and events to encourage Singaporeans to do what seems an obvious thing: Praising your kids?
On the other hand, speaking as a child of the ’90s, praise was not commonplace. Good behaviour was expected – not specifically worthy of praise – but misbehaviour punished.
Many of my memories of school in the ’90s involve incidents that would not be condoned today.
Do we really need campaigns and events to encourage Singaporeans to do what seems an obvious thing: Praising your kids?
In primary school, I remember almost half my class being sent out over the course of a Maths lesson for not having completed their homework – something I cannot fathom happening in classrooms today. Another time, my classmate’s school bag was dumped into the dustbin, also due to incomplete homework.
In hindsight, I was spared the same fate because I was an obedient child – not so much out of respect for teachers or love for studies, but rather out of fear for the humiliation in being punished.
At home, my mother was not a Tiger Mom. Still, like most parents in my time, after she signed my tests or exam papers, she often scrutinised them to pick out my careless mistakes, while reminding me how much better I could have scored if not for my carelessness.
While I usually did above average, I was often reminded how much better I could have done, had I been less careless. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I understand you had good intentions!)
So this recent burst of efforts to encourage parents to praise kids seems to run counter to Asian culture, where it’s commonly felt that excessive praise could lead to pride.
But when we turn to the Bible, we see that God is one of affirmation.
WHAT IS PRAISE?
AN AFFIRMATION OF WHO YOU ARE
But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. (Deuteronomy 32:9, 10)
God praises His people – us, you, me! – and calls us the apple of His eye!
Note that this affirmation of the Israelites is about who they are, and not what they can do, or have done. On the contrary, this chapter was along Moses’ last words to the Israelites before he died, before they had entered the Promised Land. They had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, a consequence of their rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 32:5, 20).
Yet, in spite of Israel’s rebellion, God remembered His chosen people and kept them as His treasured possession. Unconditional love overflowed into unconditional praise.
That’s the basis for praise – it’s affirmation of someone’s inherent value, not tied to the extent of their accomplishments.
AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF HOW YOU’VE TRIED
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:20-21)
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is an often quoted passage to illustrate God’s approval of Man.
The praise of the master wasn’t based on the absolute quantitative measure of their achievement. The first and the second servant both received the same affirmation for their faithful efforts in stewarding the different amounts they had been given.
Similarly, we should praise others based on their faithfulness in responsible stewardship over a given task, not merely on the outcome at the end.
It takes time and effort to cultivate the mind-set of encouraging praise, which runs contrary to Asian culture, and probably isn’t what we were used to hearing growing up. But just as we crave the sound of affirmation ringing in our ears – “Well done, good and faithful (your name here)” – maybe it’s time to buck the trend, and become the generation that offers compliments before criticism.
Find out more about the Race For Praise 30-Day Challenge here.