Helping Others to Feel Special and Appreciated: Overcoming a “Praise Deficit” In the Family (page 2)
I had read an article in which the author wrote that many people have a "praise deficit." These words prompted me to think about an experience I had when I was a psychology trainee, an experience that exemplified someone practicing the opposite of a praise deficit. I had been quite anxious preparing for a presentation at Grand Rounds since I was not accustomed to speaking to large audiences, but when I finally spoke, things seemed to go well. Afterwards, my supervisor left a note in my mailbox that I had not expected. It read, "You did a great job today, Bob." That note set a positive tone for my entire year as a trainee and was a great boost to my confidence. It also demonstrated that my supervisor cared about me.
The concept of praise deficit is tied to my belief that one of our purposes in life should be to help others feel special and appreciated. Given this belief I began to ask my audiences of parents, educators, mental health professionals, and business people to consider such questions as: "Do you lead your personal and professional life in a manner that contributes to others feeling special and appreciated? Because you are on this earth, who in the last couple of weeks feels more special and appreciated? What is one thing you said or did with your husband, wife, child, colleague, business associate that you know because you said or did it helped the other person to feel more special and appreciated?" I have found that these questions prompt much reflection.
In this article I will examine the importance of overcoming praise deficits within our families in ways that communicate to our spouse, children, or other relatives that they are special in our eyes. To do so, I would like to tell you a story about my parents and "the file," a story that I hope serves as a catalyst for building your own family files.
Both of my parents were immigrants and perhaps had the equivalent of a sixth or seventh grade education (as you read what follows it will indicate that formal education is not necessarily linked to parenting skills). As I reflect upon my childhood, I realize how fortunate my brothers and I were. My parents always found simple yet powerful ways of helping us to feel special to them. Although my father worked long hours in a small store that he owned, I felt his undivided attention whenever he was with me. However, it was the "files" that my parents kept that truly reinforced this feeling of specialness.
I love to share the story of the files at all of my workshops. Everything went into these files--birthday cards, report cards, artwork. It may sound a little crazy, but as I was growing up I felt special because of my file. I had no idea if anyone else in my neighborhood in Brooklyn had files similar to the ones that were in my home. I felt that my parents genuinely enjoyed building them. It was a wonderful feeling. Little did I realize as I grew up that someday the files were to assume even greater significance and actually become a metaphor for my relationship with my parents.
My mother died almost 20 years ago. After she died, my father told us, "I know that the files were very important to your mom, but they’re just as important to me. So, if it’s okay, I would like to keep them going in her memory." As he said these words I began to cry. I thought, "Here is this 76-year-old man who was saying to his sons that they were still important to him and he wanted to keep the files an active part of his life and our life. He has a wonderful way of showing he loves us and that we are special to him."
Ten years later on almost the exact anniversary of my mother’s death, my father passed away. I would like to share with you the last words my father ever said to me. I share these words not out of sentimentality, but because I believe that if we can take even one small fraction of my father’s words and apply them in our daily interactions with our family, all of us would lead happier, more satisfying family lives.
My wife and I were visiting my father in Florida. He was 86-years-old. Whenever we had said good-bye to my father in the past, he had always given me a warm hug and kiss good-bye, accompanied with some lovely words. On this occasion his words were even more powerful and poignant than usual, which was saying a great deal since his words were always memorable. I hope that all individuals experience at least once in their lives the joy of having a parent or other relative say something as beautiful to them as my father said to me. On the plane trip back to Boston I was so touched by my father’s comment that I kept thinking, "I am so fortunate he is my father. I am so lucky. I am so blessed."
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory
- The Homework Debate
- GED Math Practice Test 1