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Vitamin P
Posted by Admin
21st Jun 2018

Vitamin Praise - by Ellen M.J Deaville

Imagine a health supplement more powerful than anything you could buy over the counter. Something that had the potential to change every life it touched, was free of charge and grew in value the more it was given away. When you lavish praise on young people, it has the same effect as plant food does on your hanging baskets - it makes them glow. So how is it that something so vital can make many of us feel so uncomfortable? Praising a curly haired toddler or sweet faced baby is easy, but older children and teens are a different matter altogether. 

Many are suffering a serious Vitamin P deficiency, instead being on the receiving end of  too much criticism from the adults around them. But it doesn’t need to be that way, as using even a tiny pinch of this amazing supplement can change a young person’s confidence and attitude, so much. Try noticing just little things at first: 

  • "You've done a great job of tidying up your room."
  • "Good grief Joe, my car has never looked so clean."
  • "You've really tried your best with that maths homework."
  • "Great to see you’ve eaten your salad as well as your pizza today Jamie.”

If they are feeling low, remind them of their successes and let them over hear you telling other people about them, as that will really fluff up their feathers. As a bonus, talking in a more positive way will have a real effect on boosting your own mood too. We all need rewarding for our efforts whether it is extra pocket money or a later bedtime at the weekend? You will know best what motivates young people and rewards and praise always work better than criticism. You might think that teens are too old to want a sticker when they have done well? You would be wrong, as I have a selection of funny ones which nearly every one of the fifteen or sixteen year olds quite happily put on their school planner or mobile phone case. As a bonus, it reminds them of the fact that there is someone they can get in touch with when they need help or advice.

Praising children is a great way of getting them to do what you want them to do as well, as my sister found when my niece Rosie was a toddler. They went to the ‘Mother & Tots’ group in the village every week which was the usual relaxing mix of red faced mums and children racing up and down screaming at the top of their voices. Cries of “Get here now” filled the air, with the  tots taking no notice whatsoever. That is, apart from Rosie, who always ran straight back and was rewarded with a bear hug and a big “Thank you” from my sister. Behind her one day she heard the other mothers snorting loudly saying “Thank you? Oh how funny is that? ” and was quite hurt at first. That is until the mother concerned raced off yet again to chase her own little cherub around the room*

If their school report was far from glowing, praise the effort they have put in rather than the results. Our society seems so obsessed with results and grades when it should celebrate the work which children put in as being just as important. Perhaps their best grade is an E or an F? So instead of making them feel that they are ‘not doing well enough’ , praise them for trying and offer to help them if they are demotivated. They will just give up altogether otherwise as in the same way, if you remind them about their untidy bedroom or undesirable friends every day, their motivation and confidence will slowly drain away.

And don’t you be fooled by the air of nonchalance used by older children and teens, as it is but a thin disguise for their hurt feelings. And while you don’t need to do a Highland Fling every time a dirty dish is washed or a sock finds its way to the laundry, do try to appreciate even those small steps in the right direction. 

How lucky we were at home having parents that have always told us “how proud” they were of us, never comparing us or showing favouritism. Instead we were each been encouraged to use our unique talents as we grew up. I was in the school Gymnastics Team, my sister Louise achieved some of the highest exam results in her school year, and my youngest sister Belinda has always been creative and full of fun. There is hardly ever a conversation I have with my parents now when they don’t say how proud they are of the three of us, and that is worth its weight in gold.

Compare that with the kind of conversations you hear in the supermarket queue or the playground - “Oh, she is so shy / naughty / cheeky. Nothing like her brother was at that same age. He was such a good boy..” and often the poor child they are talking about is right there listening !*

I sat in a meeting once, an annual review for a Year 9 who had a Statement of Education Needs and the professional running the meeting said to the student in front of everyone - “Why don’t you stand up Sam and let Miss see how small you are?” I don’t know who was more horrified, him or us. She later turned to his Mum and said to her - “Well, I wouldn’t say he was completely useless.” The loud crashing sound that followed her comments was both my jaw and his self-esteem, hitting the floor. I felt so sorry for Sam and for his mum and found myself comparing the tactless woman with my own parents, not that there was a comparison to be made, who even when I left College and couldn’t find a job for six months, still told me that they “were proud of me for trying so hard”. They have never made me feel like a disappointment although there must have been many had times when they were worried. Every step of the way I knew that they were are rooting for me and even when I made some bad decisions and ‘messed up’ in spectacular style, I was still loved and praised for my efforts as each of us were. That is, except for the time I scratched the side of my dad’s car trying to reverse it out of the garage to get my own car in there… I was so scared that I tried to lie my way out by painting the damage with Dad’s touch-up paint!* It was still wet when they arrived home and when Dad discovered my deceit, his eyes clouded over with disappointment. There was no shouting or awful punishment, which only made me feel worse.

Needless to say, I never did anything like that again.

SO ..

  • Notice and praise even small improvements
  • Praise the effort as well as the results..

Ellen M.J Deaville's book Just Be Yourself is aimed at parents, carers and others working with young people. It is written to help them to support self-esteem issues. 

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