This is the fourth in a series where we summarize and discuss a chapter of the book The Inner Wealth Initiative, by Howard Glasser, Melissa Lynn Block, and Tom Grove, which is geared toward educators but is great for parents too. Over the next few months, we’ll share more on subsequent chapters and explore other helpful Nurtured Heart Approach resources. Parents may enjoy reading this book themselves and following along with our articles.
The Nurtured Heart Approach, a relationship-based approach designed to “awaken the inherent greatness in all children,” is critical to what we do at The Meher Schools. We use the Nurtured Heart Approach because it’s perfectly aligned with our values and mission: it emphasizes love, kindness, compassion, and positivity.
The Inner Wealth Initiative: Chapter 4
Am I being too easy on my kid when he does something wrong? Will the constant praise lose its effectiveness? Do I really praise for things he should be doing anyway? What do I actually say when I give praise? Parents often get excited about adopting the Nurtured Heart Approach into their homes but have some questions.
Common questions about praise
This chapter gathers some common questions parents and teachers have about giving praise, and provides answers. Some highlights:
Q: “Won’t all the praise get old?”
A: No, if it’s sincere. If it’s vague or manipulative, children will see through it and it won’t be effective.
Q: Isn’t this approach too soft and enabling?
A: No, it’s actually very strict about rules. The key is in nurturing the positive behavior, not ignoring the negative.
Q. Can we offer tangible incentives too?
A: Yes! This approach focuses on the personal connection between the adult and child, and uses verbal praise as rewards, but some prefer to take it a step further. That’s okay! Parents or teachers can give out “coupons” or “tickets” when a child demonstrates positive behavior. Children can later redeem these for something special like a toy, book, or fun outing.
Q: Why would we praise something they should already be doing?
A: As frustrating as it can be for adults, some children truly “do not know what is expected” (p. 61). Others make a “choice not to do what they know is expected” (p. 61). Either way, this approach works. We’re clear about what’s expected and show children which path to take to get positive energy from the adult.
How should we praise?
By now we understand the importance of praise, but not all praise is equal. It’s only effective if it’s done right. Here are some tips from this chapter:
Go big! As soon as you can, keep the praise flowing. The co-author Tom Grove calls this “machine gun-rate praise” (p. 70).
After waiting for a a child to complete a simple task, it’s natural to respond with “Finally you…” or “Okay, I wish you had done that 10 minutes earlier,” or similar phrases. Avoid this!
It’s not just about obvious positive actions. Praising kids for resisting doing something or for accepting a consequence honorably are both great opportunities to praise. Inner Wealth uses an example from a school where a student accepted a detention and the teacher responded, “You are a person of integrity and honor for acknowledging what you did and accepting the consequences.” (p. 74) In another example, a student with a history of fighting who didn’t respond with violence when taunted by another student. The teacher told him, “... that’s great self-control. That’s being [strong].” (p. 74)
Stop what you’re doing and praise good behavior. If you’re too eager to continue with the activity at hand, the praise can get lost. Teachers often feel pressured to move along with the curriculum, but “the real goal is imbuing the skills it takes to learn … When we praise those skills, … we encourage her to learn to learn and love learning.” (p. 59)
Besides good behavior like kindness and helpfulness, we can encourage a range of behaviors. Inner Wealth includes an extensive list with terms like “patience,” “honesty,” “planning,” “self-expression,” “empathy,” “organization,” “creativity,” “good judgment,” and “handling feelings well.”
It’s not about them making us happy, it’s about “providing students with evidence about themselves so they can be pleased and thrilled with what they see in that mirror we’re holding up.” (p. 72)
Find times to praise regularly during normal conversations. The Inner Wealth authors use the example of a teacher responding with “It’s very ambitious of you” when her student says she’s trying to learn golf. This shows how we can “hold up a mirror” to show children the inner wealth that they already have. (p. 72)
We can break down a child’s action into multiple praiseworthy steps. The authors use the example of sharpening a pencil, where a student demonstrates preparedness (bringing a pencil), responsibility (sharpening it before class), patience and kindness (waiting in line for the sharpener), and more.
Instead of “Good job!” …
Inner Wealth provides dozens of examples to help parents and educators move from “Good job!” to praise that identifies the specific action and trait that the child is showing. Some highlights:
“You are showing that you have great ears; you are listening very well.” (p. 82)
“I like the way you are having consideration for others.” (p. 83)
“I really appreciate how you are planning well … you are being very organized.” (p. 83)
“You are being very successful by using good teamwork.” (p.83)
“I appreciate how you are handling your strong feelings well.” (p.83)
What students experience as we build their inner wealth
Children feel that the adults support and value them.
Children learn to celebrate the process, not just the result.
For more on why this matters, check out Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset, which is summarized in this video here.
Children learn to find their own inner wealth, building confidence even when they’re not being praised.
Bullying decreases: “When kids feel great about themselves, they don’t want to be hurtful to others.” (p. 73)
Adults and children are more joyful.
For children who “have been deeply hurt”
Children who have experienced traumatic relationships tend not to trust others, and are often angry, withdrawn, or disinterested. Keep in mind, as the Inner Wealth authors explain, “If you treat him as damaged, he will be damaged further.” (p. 78) Instead, using the Nurtured Heart Approach and showering the child with love and support will show him or her that:
“You are competent.”
“You are valuable.”
Chapter 5, which we’ll dive into next month, explores what it means to be “strict but not stern” and discusses “resets” and “time-outs.” It also includes lots of clear tips on consequences, which we’ll share with you.
Thanks for reading, and thank you for all you do to support the growth and development of your wonderful child!