The Power of Sharing Appreciations with Kids

June 3, 2013 at 6:50 am (Positive Discipline)

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My daughter stopped chewing, put down her fork and declared, “Mom, I’m really glad you helped me clean my room today.”
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Yes. It looks sooooo much better, and I actually like to be in it now. But it was a huge job and I never could have done it all myself.”
“You’re welcome,” I replied. “It does look really nice and it was fun to get it done together.”

This was a conversation we exchanged at dinner recently. Sharing appreciations and daily “favorites” with my kids and husband has become a part of our family’s routine. Sometimes we share together at dinner, sometimes we share individually at bedtime, but every day, we take time to focus on the positive.

What Are Appreciations?

They are what you  genuienly enjoy about each other’s company and contributions. Everyone needs this; we all need to know that we matter and have an important place in the family and in each other’s hearts. Appreciations are not arbitrary, nor are they necessarily complex.  They are meant to be a true and specific reflection of the happiness, gratitude, and love you feel for your family members. Does someone in your family bring you joy? Tell them that.

I really enjoyed our special time at the bakery today. It was my favorite part of the day.
Thank you for telling me what happened at school. I hadn’t heard, that’s important to know.
I appreciated you taking care of the garbage after dinner. It was a big help.
I loved hearing you read to me this afternoon!

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Why Do Them?

Sharing appreciations is a great way to connect at the end of the day. Amidst the busyness of our daily lives, in which we’re worried about the future or preoccupied with the stress of children’s behavior and difficult emotions, sharing appreciations with each other helps us enjoy the present and reflect on the positive parts of parenting. It requires us to look deeply into our time spent with our kids. And in doing so, our kids gain a much-needed sense of connection (with us) and pride (in themselves). What child doesn’t want to hear how he was noticed and valued by those he loves most? From the little things to the big things, recognition matters.

Your joke about the hot dog made me laugh…and jokes usually don’t make me laugh out loud!
I appreciate your skill for finding things…I definitely needed your eyes today when I couldn’t find my keys! Thank you!
At gymnastics today, I noticed how much your cartwheels have improved. You’ve put in a lot of practice on those.
I enjoyed playing checkers with you today.

When?

The end of the day is a great time to connect with each other. Plus, the events of the day are still fresh in your mind and you can reflect back on it more easily. Dinner time and bed time are both natural opportunities for connecting and sharing appreciations. It’s also great way to start family meetings. And of course, if something comes up during the day, it’s always OK to share your appreciation in the moment!

Thanks for figuring out a quick solution when you discovered you were out of clean socks.
I appreciated your maturity in the store today.
You made a hard decision when your friend wanted to play and you didn’t…I can appreciate the difficulty of that situation.
Thanks for your willingness to ride in the back for carpool today. 

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How?

The most important thing about making an appreciation genuine is your intent behind it. Appreciations are not about pulling any comment out of the air just because it’s “time to do appreciations now.” The point of this exercise is not only to make it a habit to share your thankfulness with each other, but that it is genuine. That’s most important. It should not feel forced or manipulative to share an appreciation with your kids. If it is something you truly enjoyed about the day–big or small–it’s meaningful. The value of this exercise lies in the intent.

The walk to the mailbox with you was nice.
I enjoyed listening to music instead of stories in the car today.
It felt good to have tea after we got so cold outside.
Thank you for telling me I had food in my teeth this afternoon.

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What if you can’t find anything nice to say?

Sometimes this exercise causes you to dig deep. Because if you’re being authentic and non-manipulative with your appreciations, sometimes you have to take a minute to find that place. I have had days where I struggle to find anything positive or appreciatory to say. For whatever reason, the behaviors, the attitudes, or the interactions were stressful and challenging; at the end of the day it is all weighing on me. So when we touch base as a family (usually at dinner or bedtime), I either have to search deep to find an appreciation/ enjoyable moment/ favorite from the day (in which case it is truly genuine and not just a meaningless comment or placeholder for the purpose of keeping this routine), or I let my kids know that I’m having trouble right then (which is also genuine). I’ll say, “You know, I had a really hard day, and I’m just having trouble thinking of stuff right now.” We’ve been keeping this habit of sharing appreciations long enough for them to know that’s OK and it’s not personal. I’ll be able to pick up again tomorrow.

The most important thing here is that your appreciations be honest and authentic. Even a lack of finding that “happy place” to vocalize anything positive right then is still being honest. That is what matters more than just going through the motions, which is when appreciations start to turn into praise or manipulation.

I had a really hard day, but I did enjoy watching you follow that squirrel at the park.
I had a really hard day, and the best thing is probably right now, just sitting down.
My favorite part of the day was taking my shower.
Thank you for your hug and for understanding I had a bad day.

Appreciations can be so fun and important for children, and they definitely go a long way toward strengthening relationships. Whether through small moments or large gestures, kids are able to understand their significance and feel pride in contributing to the family in meaningful ways.

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