Occasionally parents will ask me if I think a parent can praise too much. The philosophy that too much praise is bad comes from articles published suggesting that if a person gets praised all the time when they are children that they will feel like they need praise for everything when they are adults. This may or may not be true for insincere, general, or made up praise. I have not really studied this side of the praise argument much. However, the other side of the praise argument is worth discussing. I do know from personal experience that it is really easy to forget to praise children and people we love regularly. I also know that when I praise my family and friends more our relationships improve and our love increases.
So, even if the philosophy above is true in certain situations, I believe that a person who won’t or can’t praise another person when they are doing well is selfish. Consciously choosing not to praise another person when they have done well goes against a gospel principle. The principle is gratitude. In the 2010 October General Conference, President Monson gave us much to think about and live up to regarding gratitude.
Quotes From President Monson’s Talk:
“Gordon B. Hinckley said, “When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.”
“How can we cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude? President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, provided an answer. Said he: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life.” He continued: “Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!”
“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
“If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
“Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.”
“Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
Praise Is Gratitude Expressed
I have had too many instances just like the above quote. I have indeed felt gratitude for an act from one of my children or loved ones. I have even thought kind things about them, but have not opened my mouth to actually express the gratitude in my heart. Gratitude is two things it is a feeling and an action.
First we must train ourselves to search for opportunities to feel the feeling. After we feel that appreciation for another of God’s children we will be ready to act. Acting on the feeling can be hard for some. It requires putting words to feelings as well as opening a very personal conversation centered around the speaker’s personal feelings. This can seem vulnerable to many people.
Even for many people who love each other dearly, it can become easier to simply take the other person for granted or to not express deep, even spiritual, feelings of gratitude.
Praise Is For The Speaker Too
It is common knowledge that praising a person makes them stand a little taller and develop more self worth. That alone is enough reason to engage in the action of praise on a regular basis. However, if that reason isn’t enough I offer a second. Praise encourages more good behaviors.
Up until I was seventeen years old I didn’t really think of myself as a good writer. However, that all changed the first week of AP English class that year because of a meaningful praise. The whole class had written papers the first week. I thought my paper was okay, but certainly not my best work. The day after I turned in the paper the teacher had me stand in front of the class while she read it to everyone. She gave me an “A” and told the class that what I had written was superior writing. She even when as far as to recommend to the other students that they attempt to write papers like mine.
This experience changed my whole life. I didn’t know it then, but my attitude about my ability to write changed. I am still not the best writer around, but I have written books and countless articles which are read around the whole world. That one meaningful praise changed my opinion of myself and my behaviors in the future. She gave me the courage to write. Praise is so powerful!
Beyond these two reasons to give praise, there is third even more meaningful reason. Giving praise, or the act of gratitude, is a gospel principle. When we praise we acknowledge the worth of the soul we are speaking too. We are consciously doing something to make another person feel loved and to encourage them on their life’s journey. And, when we do this we are filled with the spirit of love. We are healed and strengthened all at the same time. Our souls become lighter and our purpose becomes greater.
In short we become more Christ-like. We start looking at people with new eyes. Instead of contempt and judgment, we look at the people we love with acceptance and support. This action changes us much more than it even changes the person we are speaking to.
Make Them Ask You
When life gets moving fast I often forget to praise as often as I should. One time, a number of years ago, when I wasn’t really praising my family much, my husband said something I will forever be grateful for. He came to me and said, “Honey, I need some praise right now.”
Wow! I never thought someone would just come right out and ask me for praise. I also realized he was totally right. We all need praise. I have felt unappreciated from time to time too. But, instead of asking my husband for a praise I have judged him for not showing me gratitude.
On that day I made a pact with my husband and my family that we would all let each other know if we ever feel like we need some more praise. We have done this and have experienced more unity and support from each other.
My husband told me he “needed” praise. There are different levels of communication:
#1 Pleasantries (How was your day?) etc.
#2 State the facts (Dinner will be done at 6:00.)
#3 What you feel (I feel so tired today.)
#4 What you need (I need some praise.)
Level four is the highest level of communication, and as such should be our goal for our communications with the people we love.
If you keep your communications in the first couple of levels you will not allow yourselves to be honest enough to have a good connection.
The Praise Debate
Debating the topic of how much praise is appropriate isn’t really the debate we should be having. We should be having a debate about why people don’t show more gratitude and how we can change that social trend. We should discuss how attitudes are like diseases and spread from person to person. Then we should encourage ourselves to adopt “attitudes of gratitude” so that we can grow closer to people and to God as well as fulfill the needs of the people around us without them ever having to ask us.
Feel gratitude and then express it by praising. For every one time you correct your child or spouse you should praise them six to ten times that day. Praising keeps your relationships strong and your corrections heard. A person who praises often and corrects appropriately has the power to influence people to make great changes. President Monson summed it up nicely, “My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
May we all reach a little more toward heaven as we set goals for our new year.
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