In Praise of Praise
As a family, we have always been committed to eating dinner together. Even if someone has to run off to an evening commitment and we only have 30 minutes or less, we do everything we can to make it work. Research has shown that eating dinner together has a positive impact on your children … even if they appear to have little to say. The action itself speaks volumes.
During many of our dinnertime check-ins, the conversation used to go as follows.
Parent: “What did you do at school today?” Child: “Nothing.” Parent: “Who did you hang out with at recess/lunch?” Child: “My friends.” Parent: “Can you be more specific?” Child: “No.”
Does this conversational dance sound familiar?
Lately, in an effort to alter the dinnertime dynamic, we have changed our tack. Rather than solely asking about each other’s day, we have each praised the other for something that happened during the day that we wanted to acknowledge. It can be something as small as appreciation that your child picked his clothes up off the floor without being asked, to something larger like hard work on a school project, or an act of kindness toward a peer.
Not only are you praising your child and your significant other, but your child also gets a chance to praise you. I have received acknowledgments from my children, such as “I praise you for making spaghetti tonight” or “I praise you for letting me use your iPhone.” Admittedly, these examples are a little self-focused, by they accomplish the purpose.
As a family, we are taking time to stop and reflect on what each of us does for the other and the importance we play in each other’s life on a daily basis. Acknowledging even what feels like the most mundane actions by the people in our life is powerful. While we may “expect” certain things to happen, praising someone for the action and the manner in which they did it can only lead to positive feelings.
I encourage you to give this a try and see how it changes the dynamic at your dinner table. At the very least, it will give you the opportunity to reflect on those sitting around your table before you all rush off to your next obligation.