Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how David and I parent.

Well, I actually daydream about that all the time, but I’ve been thinking specifically about how we praise and push our kids. And I’ve been pondering about how to find a good happy-medium.

This has been on my mind specifically lately because for my calling I’ve been making the rounds to watch various primary programs at church (once a year the kids ages 4-12 get up and do the program in Sacrament Meeting).

It’s so interesting to watch all those hundreds of kids do their speaking parts. Some are sheepish and shy, and must have an adult at their side whispering all the words to them as they speak. Others stand up and belt out the words from memorization with all the enthusiasm and confidence in the world. And then there’s everything in between.

It makes my mind wander all over the place: how much of the confidence and exuberance is trained and how much just comes in the package of that particular child? How much were they pushed to memorize those lines? How much of that beautiful public speaking comes because those parents sat patiently with those children and really helped them, and expected more, and how much were they just born with? How much of the performance is a result of how much the leaders pushed? Should I start home-schooling my kids because those kids who I know are home-schooled stood out like little stars? Should I revamp the idea I had ages ago that kids should memorize a new poem each month and recite it to the family? Should I just generally expect more of my kids?

(I know, it’s a little scary how much I let my brain wander from a few little primary programs, and certainly there are TONS of different avenues we can push our children, public speaking is such a tiny fraction of them…but it’s just been on my mind a lot lately.)

In our family David claims he’s the “pusher” and I’m the “praise-er.”

When I wrote this post, Dave joked that when I get out a pen to write the kids’ talents on their fingertips, he should write what they could use a little work on on their toes.

And I LOVE how he pushes.

Because you know what? I want our kids to strive toward excellence. Of course most parents do. But sometimes I’m just too much of a push-over to make them work overly hard at it.

When Max finishes the yard work, Dave gets annoyed if he leaves out the trash can. Then I’m quick to jump in and remind him how great the lawn looks. When Grace comes home with 24 out of 30 on a test he is disappointed, and I quickly point out her beautiful handwriting.

Sure, we both stress over and over again that we must do our best. But Dave is much better at keeping those “great expectations” above par. And as he does, those kids rise to the occasion.

If our kids become superstars some day, it’ll be all because of Dave. And I’m so thankful for that.

Still, I think kids need the letters on their fingers AND their toes.

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  1. My husband and I are the opposite. I am the pusher and he is the praiser. He is an amazing parent and so good at looking at the good. But the kids are with ME all day, so I need to work on my praising.

  2. That is why you guys make such a great couple! Aren't your kids so lucky to have the push and the praise! We need both to become our very best selfs!

  3. Okay, this blog entry made me laugh! This is a fun idea and I love it (the concept of using both fingers AND toes).

    Fill up all the fingers with what they are good at and fill in only a few toes with things to focus on…I may try it!

  4. I am so much more like Dave. I think it was because that was how I was raised…you do a job, you do it right and all the way, and take pride in it. And it is SO frustrating to me when my kids don't do this! At the same time, when I have praised instead of pushed I find that I usually get what I wanted in the first place…I have to remind myself to do it though and sometimes it's really hard!

  5. What I find most challenging is selecting what to push and praise. I think there's too much focus on public performance success in general (sports, music, dance, grades, leadership positions in school) so I'm careful not to put undo pressure on them to excel and succeed in areas that aren't even meaningful to them, but just "look like" success. Success is a tough thing to define (as is "doing your best"), but in the end I really just want to be encouraging them to do things that will help them BE more. That can happen in so many ways, and may not always look like success in the world's eyes.

  6. There is a great new book out called "Nurtureshock: new thinking about children" and there is a chapter that talks about this issue and the pitfalls of raising a generation of "overly praised" kids. We all want to recognize greatness in our kids, but sometimes when it is not warranted it is a disservice to praise them. You should check out the book – very thought-provoking and insightful.

  7. Let me try that again….

    I have a very distinct memory from my childhood, of my father. I remember him taking me into our empty chapel late one weekday afternoon. As the sun streamed in through the windows, he walked me up to the podium, and showed me how the microphone worked. I can recall him explaining how my voice would sound muffled or too loud, depending on how I used the microphone. Then, I remember him sitting in different places in the chapel, as I said my part for the primary program over and over again, until my father was reassured that even the older people who sat on the very back bench with their hearing aids would be able to hear and understand me. That experience has stayed with me all these years. As a child, I thought it slightly embarrassing that I was the only child who had to do that…as an adult, I am so grateful for my father's concern and wisdom. He understood that it did no good to have expectations of his child, if he didn't provide clear instructions about what those expectations were and how I could fulfill them. He expected me to speak clearly and confidently, so he showed me how and patiently practiced with me until I could. I have realized that not every child is blessed with that kind of parenting, but I'm so grateful that I was.

  8. Shawni, I think most parents struggle with this on some level. Whether it's academics, sports, or whatever. My husband and I just had this conversation last night. Sometimes I push too hard, and I need to regroup, and get my priorities straight. Sometimes it's my husband who is pushing to hard. It's nice if you can balance eachother out. But I think you're right in wondering how much comes from the home, and how much comes from the individual child. It's a fine balance i'm sure.

  9. In our home, we call it the "mean" parent and the "nice" parent.
    I'm the mean one.
    And I'm going to start working on our new labels…"push" and "praise".
    Thanks Shawni!

  10. I'm so happy you posted this. In our family it's just like yours. I am a praiser since I didn't recieve much as a child, my husband is a pusher because that's his childhood. I think it equals out for the kids to have both. It is hard as a parent though to know when to praise/push and when not too. Some kids need pushed more then others and others need more praise. I too look at the other boys/girls in school concerts/sports/activities and campare but I know we can only do so much for them. The one thing I would do different is getting my kids to talk out loud more often, they hate giving reports/songs/poems whatever in front of their peers. My son gets stomach aches all week till his presentation comes and he's only
    8. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. Love reading your blog.

  11. I think that's the two roles in some ways. THe father prepares them for the world and the mother nurtures them and helps them feel safe and confident in the process. Both should do both tasks but it just seems to come more naturally to the sexes…not always. Sometimes the roles reverse some. However, both are needed and you are doing great!

  12. I believe every child should have something they feel good about..whether it be dancing, soccer, art, playing a intstrument…etc. Anything! Each child needs that confidence in their life so that they can always feel that self-assurance. In a world that relies too much on looks and peer pressure, our kids need to be able to rise above all of that. Kudos to your father, as mine did the same. with 9 siblings, my mom never stopped. I will always appreciate the sacrifice, the push and the praise, my parents gave me (to pursue our talents). It made all the difference in my life.

    Loved this post…thanks for your words of wisdom!!!

  13. I think in every family there is a balance – one parent responsible with pushing and the other with praising; and it's good it's like this. If kids would feel pressure all the time, sooner or later they will fatigue; if they would be praised always, they won't be motivated. The kids need you as you are, and you contribute to their future just as much as Dave does!!

  14. I'm on a scavenger hunt to find the best blogs and I chose yours. I love it! This post stood out to me because my husband and I can relate. I think it depends on the child who is the pusher and who is the praiser. Love you blog! Love the title!

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