We were peacefully watching a movie early last night when some kids came up to our gate. I asked our helper to go out and see what they needed. My curious girls ran to the window to take a look too.
Danae ran back to me, telling me that the kids are hungry. She excitedly said that we should give them the extra can of cookies we had. I just nodded and gave her the can. Our helper handed it to the kids outside as my girls watched from the window.
I read somewhere that we shouldn’t always give out compliments or be generous with our “good jobs!” to our kids. I can’t remember exactly why but I suppose it’s because it might teach them to be complacent or lazy, thinking their mediocre work is great. I suppose also that it may teach them to seek praise for every little thing they do, and as a result, they will not have the drive to do anything unless they are praised.
After what Danae did, I chose not to say anything. I believe that we have always encouraged generosity through our words and actions and have applauded it as well. But today, I wanted to teach her that her act was not extraordinary, and that in our family, it should not be extraordinary — it should be normal.
About 3 hours later, of course, I had to at least acknowledge what she did. It wasn’t right not to. There was no need to gush or make a huge deal out of it. I just gave her a hug and told her she did a good thing. She just smiled and went back to what she was doing.
Giving encouraging words is normal in our family. It’s our culture. I understand the concern about our part as parents in promoting mediocrity and a lack of motivation, when we over-compliment our kids. But I think that deliberately withholding praise is not the key. Excellence, hard work, and joy can still result from encouragement, if done truthfully and with a sense of normality. Our kids get used to being praised, and they also get used to constructive criticism and correction. It’s a matter of balance. The true key, though, is teaching our kids that we do not do things to seek praise from men, but to serve the Lord.
Our hope is that our girls get used to giving and sharing, whether they’re thanked for it or not, whether they are applauded or just hi-fived or not acknowledged at all. That even though nobody notices, they know God sees and that is enough.
Because excellence, hard work, joy, kindness, service, love are an overflow of the fullness of Christ in one’s life, generosity, exercised with wisdom, should be, will be, if it isn’t already, our family’s culture too.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 2:23-24
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Proverbs 19:17
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45