Are You Raising Applause Seekers?

I believe in praising the good works of young people.  I commit "Random Acts of Pride".  I wonder at what point do we cross the line and create adults who require the praise of others?  We all know them – adults who need others to approve of their lives and acknowledge their actions.  Why didn't they integrate a feeling of pride that would lead them to be more self-confident adults?

Little children love when you clap for them.  My niece, who is 1 ½ years old, plays a game.  She jumps on her mother’s lap and then applauds so we will all applaud with her.  She looks around the room to make sure we are all clapping and we do.  I've seen adults do a grown up version of this.  They state something about themselves and then look around the room to see the reaction.  They hope for the same thing that my niece does – a room full of acknowledgement.  I hope someday that my niece takes a giant, fun leap in her life and feels that applause without needing it from us.  I hope she makes a tough decision and has the fortitude to stand by it without caring what others think.
                          
There is a fine line between teaching children that their actions are worthy and teaching them to require the approval of others.  Ideally, our children will grow up to take pride in themselves and enjoy the compliments of others but not require it.   When we praise children, we need to do more than say that we are proud of them.  We need to ask them about their own achievements.  When they have done something and say, “Look” we need to do more than tell them how we feel.  We need to teach them to recognize and honor how they feel about what they've done.  We need to stop only making statements like, “Good job” and start asking questions, too.  How different would our children’s outlook be if every “Good job” was followed with:
  •  “What do you like about what you made?”
  • "How do you feel about what you did?”
  • "What does it feel like to have done something well?” 
For every emotion, there is a bodily reaction.  When we are afraid, we feel tension in our bodies.  When we are proud, we feel what I can only describe as lightness.  We feel a tad lighter in our own bodies when we are proud.  A warmth spreads through us and we smile.  We need to teach children to recognize that wonderful feeling and sit with it a moment.  They need to find joy and pride from within so they don’t spend their lives on an endless quest for the unattainable.  Other people cannot make us feel the warmth of work well done.  When we look for that feeling from outside ourselves, we are never quite satisfied.

Sometimes we win tiny, little battles.  Sometimes we do generous things and, frankly, other people won’t care.  Sometimes we accomplish a goal quietly and there is no one to applaud.  We need to teach our children the beauty of all of those moments.  We need to actively teach that the best reward is simply knowing that you have been the best version of yourself.

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Comments

  1. As the article points out, there is a fine line between wanting applause and needing applause. This is true for both children and adults; and we see examples of those controlled by their need for 'external self-esteem' daily. Childhood is when these seeds are sown. The older we are the harder it is for people to stop depending on other people's 'permission' and to appreciate and love themselves for who they are. We can make it easier for children, or we can make it harder for them.

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  2. Your 3 questions are excellent, Cindy.

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