You know that saying that “Give a man a fish and he won’t starve for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he won’t starve for his entire life “, well it’s a just the same when it comes to giving someone else your praise…
When I realise the damage I was causing my kids, I had to reprogram myself to ensure I wasn’t continuing the damage that many of us do when we inflict our praise on to someone else. Yes I said INFLICT!
Just think about it… your child/partner/friend has just achieved something positive and we clap them on the back, hug them and tell them just how proud we are of them like their good deed has somehow rubbed off on us, that we’re partly responsible … that their good is also our good. That they’re perfect as long as you’re happy..
Another side effect of giving praise is the dependence it creates between you and the do gooder. It is like the man who is given fish for a meal… he’s going to need it on a regular basis to survive… we need to somehow teach him how to fish so he doesn’t have to rely on us all the time!
So are you getting the idea yet? Yes.. that’s right, all your praise is creating a dependency and the more you give it, the more dependent they become on you to provide it… like an addict. And you can feel that it’s quite addictive too, like you’re worth is tangled up on giving someone else their worth because if you didn’t, then what good are you?!
So what’s the alternative? Swallow our praise and make them go cold turkey? No… that would be cruel wouldn’t it? Yes it would and enormously damaging to those already addicted to your positive attention. It requires a subtle change but one that is significant.
Change the focus from you to them… drop your use of “I am so proud of you“… change it to “How good to you feel now? Are you proud of yourself? That’s great! It’s so good to feel so good about yourself isn’t it?!”
See, not an “I” in sight… none of that good work (they did) is rubbing off! It stays with them and they start looking within for the feeling that they did good… they validate themselves. The more you do that, the more they seek it from themselves and enjoy the feeling of knowing that they are proud of themselves. They don’t need you or others to make them feel good.
We need to apply this principle in every positive situation, from school grades, sporting achievements and creative achievements. This one change can affect their whole lives and I’m not talking lightly here..
The difference between my children is astounding when I look back at some of the changes I made to my parenting approach, this being one. My daughter has been brought up her whole life feeling good from the inside out and doesn’t need to seek my approval or praise. She’s confident and has a good sense of who she is. She knows if she is satisfied with her own level of school work, she motivates herself, I never have to remind her to do her work and we never get a negative report or remark about her achievements. She has self esteem! I am confident she won’t need to rely on her boyfriend/partner/boss/teacher/friends to make her feel worthy and that gives me a great sense of relief. I am proud of myself for making that change. My son was much older (in his teens) and he still suffers from praise addiction and struggles with it constantly. We talk about it when it shows up in his life and he realises it and yet it is so addictive!
Due to the work that I do with other people, I can spot a praise junky quite quickly and can start to help them unpick their dependency and wean themselves off or rather, start feeling good from within… so they don’t need to get it from unreliable sources!
I had to do this for myself! I realised that my worth was tied up on other people’s approval and that was stressful, created anxious moments and even bottomed me out in one area in my life. My creative side… I had relied on my father so much to give me praise that when he passed away, I stopped painting, drawing or doing anything remotely arty. It took me a number of years and lots of EFT sessions to help me overcome my addiction to needing his praise to feel I was any good at it. I went from drawing & painting successfully to literally sucking at it, giving up and feeling lost in the big hole, (by not doing it), it left behind. EFT helped me release my beliefs and realign my sense of self again and now I’m back painting again. Yay!
When I help others, some people get it, some people don’t (generally the givers… they still need their fix of feeling good by praising someone else’s achievements). It’s heart breaking to watch a child glow from a parent’s praise for me as I know what the future entails for that little one.. and it isn’t a fun journey to go through. It also affects everyone else around them as they try to keep up with the need for praise to make them happy.
So don’t give me praise baby… just feel good for me, tell me how happy I look, make it OK to be happy with myself, to have a few “tickets on myself” for what I did for a while. Enjoy my success without trying to take responsibility for it.