Last week Sienna suddenly said to me, “I don’t like it when you do that.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, “Do what?” I asked.
“Say, Cool! or That’s good, when I show you something. You do that all the time.”
Now, Sienna has a flair for the dramatic and honestly I didn’t give this comment much attention that day. My thought was something along the lines of, “Oh, Sienna. Give mommy a break.”
Then, yesterday, as we got to enjoy some cozy Christmas-y time together, she brought it up again. “See, mom, like that. You said Good! and didn’t really look at what I was showing you.”
I understood what she was getting at. “You mean I sound distracted when I make those comments?”
“Yes, like you just say That’s cool when it’s really “Amazing!”
These conversations got me thinking. First of all, I do often make general comments in response to Sienna’s requests for me to “Look at what I did!” or tell me a story. I often am distracted because I’m doing something else when she asks for my attention. During this later chat, I also explained to her that she’d get a more focused response from me if she asked for my attention and gave me a moment to transition from what I was doing before launching into her story or presentation.
I’ve read several articles, books, etc. that tell parents to describe what a child has done, or make specific comments about what you like that they did, rather than just offer empty praises, i.e. “That’s amazing!” “You’re such a great artist!” I’ve been practicing this for the past day (with lot of opportunities since Sienna got several craft/art sets for Christmas and has tons to show me). She does respond well to my engagement in what she’s doing.
I find it funny that she’s asking for exactly what the experts say you shouldn’t do. She wants me to gush over and praise each of her creations. While this is a normal desire for a child, I’m happy to have this obvious teachable moment to explain that not everything is amazing. I’ve seen adults who were raised by parents who thought everything they did was wonderful and special. It does not serve people well to expect that level of praise from everything they do. Believe me.
I’m also noticing that my focused attention and taking the moment to engage in her story or demonstration is what she needs (and wants – even though that’s not what she’s expressing). It’s a real way for me to be in the moment with my daughter. Remaining mindful of entering into her world and asking her probing questions about her artwork is a wonderful way for us to bond.
All of that being said, her gingerbread house did illicit my praises because it truly was “Amazing!”