“Bravo”, that praise that is not always good for the child
Who knows how many times when we were young we heard: “Bravo / a” , after having finished the whole plate of pasta with the sauce, or after having made a beautiful drawing. Who knows how many times we have said it as a gift, to a boy or a girl.
Let it be clear, there is nothing wrong with that, the intent is always to make the recipient happy, the fact is that the “good” should be used with caution. It is sometimes overused praise, yet, unknowingly, we are not exercising the will to compliment ourselves in the right way. Let me explain better, praising a child through the “good” means attributing a judgment of merit on his person and his value . In this way, a mixture is created that creates confusion and ambiguity between identity and actions.
In the childhood phase, the sense of identity and self-esteem are under construction, it is therefore an extremely delicate moment, where there is a risk that the child may be structured, the idea that to be appreciated for certain behaviors ( those praised) rather than for their own worth and for the person they are. This could crystallize the idea of having to correspond to precise external expectations, under penalty of the collapse of its value . As you can imagine, this prospect is rather anxiety-provoking for the child. It’s a bit like being constantly exposed to a magnifying glass, to a judge who assigns merits, or demerits, based on behavior.
To make their parents happy, therefore, the child adapts, and carries out all those behaviors that he sees praised. And what if, in order to follow one’s own nature and being, it should behave in a different way from what parents expect?
In this case, the child may feel inadequate , not worthy of value and merit. The child, on the other hand, must maintain an awareness: that of being loved, always and in any case, and not only when he does the right thing (according to the parents). He must also know that making mistakes is human, and that he has every right to be himself.
This is why it is appropriate to use alternatives to the now inflated and generic “good”. It is necessary to direct the focus of praise on action, and not on the person , because it is necessary to start from an assumption: that the person is fine! Okay as it is!
When the homework assignments at school are well done, instead of “good” one could say. “You worked so hard, congratulations”. And one could rightly think, “well, the meaning is that, the words change.” In reality, in all this the child does not perceive the differences relative to the mere linguistic aspect, but understands its affective intention , which is a deeper aspect. He therefore understands that the praise (“you worked so hard, congratulations”), is aimed at his success at that moment, but that, even if he had not obtained it, his value as a person, as a human being … would not have changed. This is useful for the sense of identity and above all, for self-esteem.
Bravo vs Bad
And when the child combines some pranks, and therefore it is necessary to underline the wrong action, how to do it? Password: “I don’t agree”.
Shooting the child with “I disagree” can really make a difference. In this affirmation, there is no judgment, there is no mortification, but it is possible to express one’s dissent, a different position with respect to that particular behavior. This literal device,
which in reality contains a robust emotional-relational aspect, allows to establish a quality relationship with the child himself, at the basis of which respect for the other as a human being is in force. All this makes the child safe to face the world and others.
How do you comment on a good grade at school?
Let’s avoid the “Bravo” and rather ask a question: “Are you happy?”. This helps the child to feel the protagonist of his success and instills the idea that school can be a source of gratification for him. In order for the school to be desirable for the child, the motivation that drives him to get a good mark must come from within. Satisfaction for good profits must be exclusively his, and not the parent’s . With the question “are you happy?” it is as if the school was placed in the child’s hand, making it a direct beneficiary of gratification.