I’m chatting with the owner of Harry’s pre-school when Harry come’s over with a contraption he had cobbled together from random stuff and I gave him high praise and told him how much I loved it. And I did. When he toddled off to be with his friends the owner said to me: Peter, consider restraining telling Harry how much you love something he’s done, and instead ask him how he feels about it, what he likes best from it.
It was one of those rare moments of epiphany, that in the moment and immediately, made total sense. And it was uphill against the tradition of parental praise as the fundamental building block of self worth. Consistently letting a child know that how he or she feels about what they’ve done is what’s most important. There is still room for praise so long as it’s honest and not over trivial matters. That moment changed my parenting style with both my sons. From then on it was always about what they felt and thought.