by Ruth Anne Mak
One of the suggestions parenting experts give to parents is to catch your children doing something right and praise them for it. I have always liked this idea since I think positive reinforcement goes a long way toward changing behaviors. I can say as a former child that being corrected constantly didn’t exactly inspire me to great heights of achievement, but instead taught me to become really good at shutting it all out. I don’t think we ever outgrow the desire, or better described as the need, for being caught doing something right.
It’s really easy to find fault with the world, our neighbors, family, and ourselves, but I propose we carry this idea outside our home and parenting efforts. We see so much nastiness and evil in the media and unfortunately in the real world around us, but it is really important that we not focus on the nasty, rude, or downright horrible things in the world. I wrote before about the importance of what we do and say http://peopleofdistinction.org/ripples-in-a-really-big-pond/ and given some ideas of how to handle traumatic news events http://peopleofdistinction.org/looking-up/ and how to make a difference, but I think we can also make a difference by catching people do things right.
When a server does a wonderful job and makes my meal a great experience I write a note to management or fill out that comment card, and I’m happy to say that my kids do as well. Who knows if that one positive comment might get the person a raise, keep his job, or help him make it through the day? If your neighbor mows a bit of your yard near your mailbox do you thank him? Mine does that sometimes for us, and even though he does it while we aren’t home I do thank him if I see him in his yard. Although I think he does it because our clover and dandelions get out of hand sometimes, I still appreciate it and let him know. He acts as if it isn’t a big deal to him, but is to me.
Just as kids need to be “caught” at doing something right, adults do as well. Consider all the people who rush toward disasters to lend helping hands with little or no thought to their own safety, the first responders who regularly put their lives in harm’s way, parents caring for their children despite exhaustion, grown children taking care of parents after working all day, people who take the time to volunteer and those who open a door for someone with hands full, the polite co-worker who doesn’t take the last cup of coffee, and the cashier who waits patiently while you fumble for change. I could list acts of kindness all day, but you get the point.
So do you tell someone when she or he gets something wrong? If so, do you also tell them when they get something right? I hope so, since it can really make a difference in someone’s day. I know when my children thank me for making them a nice meal I definitely appreciate it and am encouraged to make them more nice meals. Not only does it help me, but it helps them since they feel good about themselves and their world when they are grateful. Expressing gratitude is actually a really empowering experience since it connects us to each other and can strengthen our own self esteem.
So how about it? Now that you may be more aware of how many things people do for you and how important it is to be grateful and show it, let’s all thank people who show us kindness or do a great job, and let’s send out some ripples of gratitude that they may pass on to others. They will feel appreciated and you will feel good about it as well. Oh, and thanks for reading!