“Nicholeen, how can I change my relationship with my daughter? We are so distant from each other.”
“Nicholeen, thank you for your articles and Implementation Course conference calls. I look forward to them each week. Please help me with this question. I know you said you have been through this before with your foster children. How do I love someone who is so hard to love?”
“Praising my family is not natural for me. Is there any way I can get better at it? They just don't seem to really do tasks the way I know they should be done. And, we really shouldn't praise something unless it is praiseworthy should we?”
I get relationship questions like this all the time. We can all feel that disconnected feeling we get when our side of a relationship has been damaged. Who damaged it? Usually, we did it ourselves. We easily see all the things the people we love do wrong. They don't meet our expectations, then we get frustrated, we think bad thoughts about them, and then we find ourselves falling out of love with them.
I often talk about how to resolve conflict. In fact, I would say that is probably the topic I am most known for speaking about. However, how to handle conflict is only one part of teaching self-government. The main purpose of teaching self-government to children is to change their hearts.
We all love our children. But, some days, just like the questions above illustrate, we allow ourselves to fall out of love. We see the children as a burden, and soon want to distance ourselves from them. When we feel like this, it means we are falling out of love with our children.
I have often said that if you feel yourself falling out of love with your child; if they bug you. Stop. Go to a private place and pray for love for your child again. Do this as often as you need to in order to maintain a strong connection to the heart of your child. If you you don't feel their heart, and they can't feel your heart, then it is near impossible to inspire them to change their heart.
That heart to heart connection during the good parenting moments and the hard parenting moments is the key to building strong relationships, and resolving conflict.
Garden Of Praise
Relationships are like gardens. We are constantly planting new seeds of love and hope. We nurture and feed our garden and hope for a bountiful harvest. But, just as any garden there are weeds which creep in and choke out the young plants we are trying to grow. The weeds in a relationship garden look like selfishness, offense, judgment, comparisons, and manipulation. It is absolutely vital that we pluck out each weed as soon as we recognize it and that we nourish our young relationship plants with praise.
We can create gardens of praise. Each relationship can be fed with a steady diet of praise so that it will be free to grow up toward the light. When course corrections have to be made, or pruning must occur, our young relationships will be okay. They will trust their gardeners because they are regularly praised for the good things they are doing.
Praise is more than just saying “great job” or “you did it!” Even though these are good and acceptable praises. Praise is when we look into a person's eyes and heart and see who God made them to be. We value that person, even when they have chosen wrong, and we speak to their heart with words they need to hear.
Praise is a really intuitive way of teaching children what was right. It is most effective if the parent thinks, “What does my child need to feel from me right now?”
Praise connects you to a person through appreciation and gratitude; two high forms of love. The opposite of praise is indifference.
One question above asks, “...we really shouldn't praise something unless it is praiseworthy should we?”
My answer is what is praiseworthy? Is trying praiseworthy? I think so. Is perfection praiseworthy? Of course. But, it is so rare, especially in childhood. If the heart of the person is desiring goodness, then we should acknowledge it, even if it doesn't meet our expectations yet. People do good things each day. If we recognize those good things, they will be inspired to do them again and to do more good things.
What Is Praise?
We can praise kids, praise our friends, praise our family members, and praise ourselves. Doing this will lift up the hearts of all these people. But, what is the real purpose of praise? To change our own hearts.
When we praise other people we can never see them the same again. We told ourselves they are good people, who want goodness. We reminded ourselves of the virtues that person has. So, next time they stumble and fall, we will see them as a good person who has made a mistake or has fallen for a moment. We will see them as a person who can be restored back to the goodness we know they have inside. When we regularly look for the good in people and praise them, we fall in love with them all over again. We safeguard ourselves from pride and judgment and allow ourselves to keep the spirit of love with us throughout our days.
As we praise more we will love more. We will happily go through life doing good because we love the people around us. Praising other people helps us far more than it helps them, so we should praise for ourselves. The whole world would be a happier place if we did.