My daughter Kayley just turned three, and she has recently discovered that she can say "Look at me, dad!" and I will always look.
This got me thinking about what she's not asking me. You know she's never said, "Praise me, dad!"
I talk about abolishing rewards and punishments all the time with parents, teachers and friends, and it is amazing how we can come to some agreement over abandoning tangible rewards like medals, bribes like cash, verbal threats and punishments like spanking or even grounding, but if there is a topic we can't agree on it's the use of praise.
There are some great people like Alfie Kohn and Carol Dweck who write about this stuff all the time. I wrote a bit of a summary on the topic called Pondering Praise.
In my experience, praise is less for the kids and more for the adults.
Praise is cheap; hence why it doesn't buy us very much.
But the less time a parent spends with their child the more likely they might try and buy back that lost presence with something like praise.
Our children need us to work with them. Play with them. Notice them. Be with them.
What the kids need is our presence not our praise.