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Parents, show more appreciation, less criticism

Dr Karla

Sunday, September 15, 2019

One of the most common problems I have found in families is that we tend to criticise others rather than show appreciation. Many parents are too critical of their children and this always does more harm than good.

We, as adults, know how it feels to be criticised and we generally do not like it. In fact, it makes us feel discouraged and unappreciated. The same applies to our children. Criticism and punishment often lead to defiance, resentment, anger and low self-esteem.

I have had students relay stories of parents mostly yelling, reprimanding and scolding them. Their sense of worth is greatly diminished and this translates to a tremendous lack of motivation and reduced performance at school.

Undoubtedly, parents criticise with good intentions; they want their children to turn unacceptable behaviours into more positive ones. This is understandable, as they are anxious and concerned about the child's future. However, the approach that is taken is critical to the improvement that you wish to see.

In many instances, critical behaviour is passed down from generation to generation. We repeat what was done to us. However, this repetitive cycle can be broken and it begins with you. It is your responsibility to break the cycle of negativity permanently.

Contrary to criticism, all humans yearn for appreciation and this appreciation means even more when it comes from the truly important people in one's life. Therefore, you the parents, who are likely the most important humans in your child's life, must show appreciation and recognise its worth.

There is always something to appreciate. When we look for the positives and recognise them, this actually affects our brains. Feelings of happiness and good self-esteem increase focus, confidence and cognitive performance.

In his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman explains that heightened prefrontal activity, which is associated with positive emotions, enhances mental abilities such as creative thinking, cognitive flexibility, and the processing of information. The left prefrontal area of our brains, which lights up with activity when we're in a positive mood, is also associated with reminding us of the good feelings we'll have when we reach a long-term goal.

Undoubtedly, your child will do something that will upset you and it is within your right and duty to correct your child. There is, however, a right way and a wrong way. Never yell at your child. If their actions have really caused you to be super angry, take a moment or two to calm yourself down. Count to 10, or take a few deep breaths.

When you are calm, address the issue. Do not embarrass or shame your child. Speak about the action that was wrong, and explain why it was wrong. Discuss other ways of dealing with the issue. If punishment is necessary, then let your child know that this a consequence of the misdeed rather than 'punishment'.

Never spank your child, as this deflates his/her spirit and causes them to associate love with physical hurt/abuse. Love is not abuse, and abuse is never the answer. It is not about letting your child know “who the boss is”.

Positive parenting, which feaures less emotional harm and zero physical harm, makes achieving high academic performance easier. Use descriptive encouragements as motivators. Take note of the improvements and the effort that your child makes in any aspect of their life. Point them out. Let your child be aware that you have noticed, and be consistent with appreciation. Positive attention and sincere praise to your child is something all children, in fact all humans, desire.

Appreciation is a power tool available to everyone, and if used appropriately, will lead to a superior child academically, as well as emotionally. Dr Karla Hylton is a lecturer of biology at The University of the West Indies and a private biology and chemistry tutor. She is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . Reach her at (876) 564-1347, or .