Role of parents

Meaningful appreciation is quite an art

It makes better sense to discuss this question with parents. The discussion that follows could be shared with parents, without any need to edit.

All kinds of ‘truisms’ abound on ‘how to appreciate’ your child (or not to). Shying away from such views and suggestions, we want to focus on ‘what to appreciate’ for. We wish to explore the ‘content of appreciation’. Apparently, the content of appreciation is the most impactful element of appreciation; the other important elements of good appreciation are – time, place, genuineness, attendant token, surprise element.

Let us recall the content of the more common appreciations for children:

a. She is bright
b. She is intelligent
c. She is hard-working
d. She is gifted
e. She is an ideal child

These are all music to children’s ears but these may also seed an element of confusion. Why may these be confusing? Here are some pointers –

For the sake of a sharper discussion, we will consider a situation where a child is appreciated for securing high marks in a test of algebra. The child is already staring at another test and wants to be appreciated again for high scores in the upcoming geometry test. In this scenario, the child would be left bemused with the following questions after the appreciation for the marks in the algebra test:

  1. What exactly was I appreciated for? All of us know that a lot of things, including sheer luck, may have gone into securing the high marks in the algebra test; it does not help to get a ‘non-specific appreciation’ if the performance is to be repeated in a similar situation (e.g. the geometry test).
  2. What do I do next? How do I start the preparation for the next test with higher self-assurance of better performance; what do I know better about algebra or myself through the appreciation for the algebra test?
  3. How did the high marks really help me? Devoid of specific appreciation, the going gets tougher – expectations increase but the capacity to live up to it does not. There is little appreciation in the people expecting better performance and the next time performance stress builds up within self.
  4. Do people really understand me? How am I really different from others; how better am I in algebra compared to others who got similar marks?
  5. What is in it for me? Did the appreciation really mean better times and more liberties and fun!
  6. What if the appreciation is misplaced? What if the appreciation was just to pep me up to seek higher marks!

Parents and teachers may actually be expecting far more and may just be half-faking! (Children know that even 95% is not good enough now)

Please be very knowledgeable in your appreciation; know your child as well as the domain! A tall order? Indeed it is, but that is how it is! If getting to know the domains of study/endeavours of your child is not easy, work hard on knowing your child better (it will also be a great joy). Develop yourself to get your child’s appreciation – explore the domain of your child’s endeavours or work towards gaining a good knowledge of your child’s strengths and weaknesses – and then your appreciation would be valued by your child!

Here are samples of ‘better framed appreciations’:

  1. ‘Today you played ball by ball’ (an example of appreciation due to better domain knowledge)
  2. ‘Your concept of division of fraction seems to be good enough for use in single digit fractions’ (appreciation out of better domain knowledge)
  3. ‘Your answer to that question on heat was excellent, you seem to have got the difference between heat and temperature’ (appreciation out of better domain knowledge)
  4. ‘Your essay on friendship was very good for the vocabulary used to express the depths of your friendship with Ritika’ (appreciation out of better domain knowledge)
  5. ‘Your rendition of ‘Raag Durga’ was precise and over 35 minutes of play, you only had one misstep – ‘komal Re’ instead of ‘shudha Re’ – that is too good’ (appreciation out of better domain knowledge)
  6. ‘You are getting more meticulous, I observed the way you went about getting your plan B in place in case …’ (an example of appreciation out of a better knowledge of the child)
  7. ‘I see you having picked a couple of things from our last conversation on …’ (appreciation out of a better knowledge of the child)

Make a promise to yourself – a better appreciation of your child the next time!

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