Getting the Right Balance

You probably thought you had learned all the lessons about balance when you were five or six years old. Your mom or dad let go of your bike and then clapped wildly and praised you while they watched you coast about five or ten feet before tipping over. You eventually learned how to balance your bike without falling. At that point, you probably didn’t realize how the concept of balance would figure so prominently into the rest of your life.

Around the time you enter school, you have to learn how to balance play time with homework. As you grow older, you add in after-school activities and sports, and you become a pro at balancing everything. It’s all good training for college, and eventually it helps you in your job when you have to multi-task. When you get married and possibly have children, that sense of balance is useful when you juggle the roles of spouse, dad, and employee.

But when it comes to balancing praise with constructive criticism with your children or spouse, how are you doing? Do you give equal time to both? I know that I’m guilty of spending more time on correcting my kids and grandkids than I spend on praising them. It’s an area where I struggle. If you do a great job in this area, then I would encourage you to keep moving forward. For those of you that read this and immediately feel as though I’m talking directly to you, please read on.

I remember once when I was making some little correction with my daughter about something and she said, “Hey Dad, I hear what you are saying and I’ll try to work on that, but when we finish talking about this issue, can you talk about something that I do well?” Ouch! That started me thinking about how well I balance my comments about improvement with words of praise. Could you relate to hearing your children ask you a question like that?

I heard my daughter saying, “Dad, am I okay? Are you happy with me?” Kids need to hear from their parents that they are okay and that they are loved. Don’t assume that they know. I think that the habit of correcting more than praising arises out of good intentions. We want our children to grow up and do better than we did in life. We are eager to tell them everything they might be doing wrong so that they will grow up to do things right. We want them to avoid all the mistakes we made, so whenever there’s an opportunity to correct a behavior, we jump on it. I believe we do it out of love. But we may be unintentionally tearing our children down with criticism without building them up with praise. Without a proper balance between the two, your children may stumble once you let them go into adulthood.

Think about this scenario in your own life. Perhaps you work at a place where correction is given more often than praise. How does that make you feel? If you aren’t sure where to start with your children, begin with writing down all of the things your child is doing right and comment on those things when it is appropriate. You can do it verbally, through a text, or by mailing them a card.

I’m not saying that you should stop correcting your kids, but you should definitely start praising them. Give your children a balanced perspective.