Appreciate and Acknowledge Success

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A positive identity hinges on positive life experiences. An ideal place for positive experiences is in a safe and secure home. The more success a child experiences, the better he feels about himself and his place in the world. Focusing on assets and strengths builds a sense of worth. When we "en"courage our children to try new and different things, we give them the courage to make mistakes and take risks.

If their inner self-belief is one of confidence and problem-solving ability they will be unafraid when unexpected obstacles or opportunities come their way. A self-confident person is willing to step outside the comfort zone.

Not every child is blessed with a specific talent or is outgoing. You may very well have one child who is a natural born organizer and not only keeps his room spic and span but will probably organize the school, neighborhood, community, and world before she is through. Her brother, on the other hand, may not excel at organization, but is sensitive to those in need.

Every person has something that he or she does well. Every single one of us can improve and progress, no matter how small that progress may be. Acknowledging small successes gives children the desire to keep trying. The hunger to excel and be competent at something is an integral part of our make-up. Success in one area of life carries over into many other areas.

Don't worry about what you can't do.
Worry about what you CAN do and make that better each day.

Three Success Principles
It is helpful to have some tools in our hands to help us establish habits in ourselves and our children to bring us closer to the realization of our dreams.

1. Goal setting and review. Goals must be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. It must be broken down into manageable pieces so that you can clearly see in a step-by-step progression how to obtain the final goal. You need to be able to write a daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly plan of action, so you are always in the process of reaching small goals on the road to the long range plans.

2. Rehearsing for success. You must be able to see it and taste it before it will ever come to be. If you can't visualize yourself achieving something, then you probably won't get it. Too many people think that by not hoping or dreaming for something that they won't be disappointed. But that is the difference between just existing and thriving in this life.

3. Concentrating on strengths. People who are successful do not waste energy concerning themselves with their weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Winners ignore what they can't do or find someone else to do it for them. If you are mentoring or networking, you will find someone who has that particular strength and will be willing to help you.

Now, take a few moments to list ten tasks that you or your child does well (outward responsibility). What are some goals that have been reached?











An important task of loving parents is to acknowledge those areas of success and help children recognize and capitalize on them. If we never look for, appreciate, and relish a child's successes, neither will anyone else. Remember a parent's job is to prepare a child to go out into the real world.

For every thing a child does wrong or incorrect, he does 19 things right. As adults, we forget just how many accomplishments we have in a given day. Many tasks have become automatic action and so we rarely even think about how wonderful it is that we know how to read, or cook, or find socks that match!

Behavior Change in Children
No matter what you may think, your teenager really does want to make you happy. They really do want to cooperate and be given responsibility. However, we have to give them the verbal and non-verbal suggestions and specific actions that make us happy, instead of complaining about what makes us unhappy.

Effective praise, as opposed to copious compliments, can change behavior in children, adults and animals. All we need to do is be aware of the things that others are doing right and comment on these actions. Everyone wants acceptance and to please others.

Their behavior may not change immediately, but they will start to do more of what you notice and focus on. This is the law of attraction. We are attracting good behavior and actions. When we express appreciation, we give support in repeating the appropriate behavior.

Stop being so critical and expecting perfection from yourself and others. We are all incredible human beings with much to accomplish and enjoy in life, so let's move forward in joy.

Want to feel better about yourself?
Simply do good things and remember them.
Explore your own magnificence!
Unbelievable Praise is Different than Encouragement
"You are such a good boy." "You are the smart one of the family." "You always make me happy." "That is a wonderful picture! What is it?" "You are the best volunteer on the committee." "You are wonderful."

Praise is a double-edged sword. It is great that our efforts are noticed, but it also carries a judgment by someone in a position important to us. In order for praise to be effective it has to be felt and believed by the recipient. If a parent says a child is "Such a talented pianist" and the child knows he can barely play basic tunes without hitting sour notes, he subtly disregards, rejects and denies the message and the messenger.

I use a lot of interns from the University of Montana in my business and this has been a great learning tool for me. In my perky (many say obnoxiously so), optimistic method of leadership I used to use non-specific praise and grandiose compliments. What I found was that many people do not translate general comments into specific guidance.

Because they did not want to disappoint me after I had raved to others about the great job they were doing, they did not ask for clarification or direction. Twice a publishing deadline was missed because I assumed that everything was on schedule. The saddest part was not missing the deadline, it was missing the point! And the point was that the woman was in agony trying to guess what I wanted her to do and how she could keep me from knowing that she wasn't wonderful, merely human.

You cannot help a person uphill
without getting closer to the top yourself.
We assume that everyone likes to be praised. Not true. Our daughter, who is one of the most accomplished, intelligent women I have ever met, hates it when we compliment her. Her non-verbal communication of rolling her eyes and shrugging her shoulders lets me know when I have gone over the line in superlatives.

Overuse or incorrect use of compliments or unspecific praise is judging and patronizing. The act of judging implies that the evaluator knows more than the one being evaluated.

If you use praise, make sure it is sincere. Praising specific behaviors reinforces those behaviors. Be prompt in giving feedback so there is a connection between the action and the outcome. Be sure to base your feedback and encouragement on what is possible for each child to achieve and the progress they have made. Avoid comparing a child, spouse or friend to another. Everyone has different talents and skills and interests.

List ten praiseworthy characteristic attributes of a loved one (inward responsibility):

Accepting Praise and Encouragement
I mentioned our daughter's reluctance in accepting compliments. She is not alone in being uncomfortable being in the spotlight. Many people have difficulty hearing positive messages and even outright deflect or reject them.

There is a variety of reasons why people are unable to accept others' positive comments. Usually it is because the message being given from the outside source does not match the internal picture the recipient has formed.

Those old self-defeating thoughts are right there yammering away; "She's crazy if she thinks that I did a great job. I messed up big time last week" or "If I agree, it will seem like I am conceited."

Sometimes the negative self-talk even doubts the sincerity of the person complimenting us. "What does he want? Why is he being so nice to me?"

Unfortunately, it is easy to believe criticism because that reinforces any core negative believes we may be holding. We may even seek negative comments by sabotaging or deliberately messing up situations where we could attain success and admiration.

We are all starving for praise, encouragement and compliments. Ironically, we may be getting all the praise we need, but don't hear it, because we have learned to filter out good news. Praise, compliments, and encouragement only make us feel better when we accept them as a gift and trust that it was given in love and good wishes.

Learning to accept good words and thoughts from others will have a dramatic impact on the confidence and self-image of the recipient. Everyone deserves to be able to accept and incorporate the gift of a positive comment from another. By not accepting the compliment, it is telling the other person that they are wrong in their assessment.
The best way to accept a compliment is to simply thank the person who has complimented you. Look them in the eye and say "thank you." This will show them that you have accepted their gift of encouraging words.

Good things happen to people who expect good things to happen to them.

Previous: Nurturing Children with Love and Respect 

Judy H. Wright is a parent educator, family coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. You are invited to visit our blog at for answers and suggestions which will enhance your relationships. You will also find a full listing of free tele-classes and radio shows held each Thursday just for you at

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