“No really, I’ll have to go to private school if I get my clothes dirty, he told me that really.” After the meal, her Dad came to get her, saw the faint outline of the spot, and (very nicely) said: Bella, you must be more careful with your new dress, it’s difficult to get stains out of pink. So that’s how it goes in Bella’s family, neatness counts.

I did some volunteer work with , a leadership development organization that works with low-income kids in Chicago. They offer a course called: Principles of Leadership. There’s some good advice to be gained from POL: Be clear, direct and directive. And there’s some bad advice too: Eliminate words from your vocabulary that are negative or weak. No, “but,”“just,” or “can’t” allowed. The advice that was really startling; was about praising children— don’t do it. Apparently, it’s not a new idea. Some experts fear, we’re raising a generation of praise junkies.

, is one of those experts. He has written eleven books and published numerous articles. first appeared in in 2001, it’s a masterpiece of common sense. Kohn explains how we’re actually stealing our child’s pleasure, manipulating them , reducing their achievement and causing them to lose interest in their activities, with too much praise.

I learn something new all the time. Hanging out with Bella, reminded me about the simple value of taking good care of what we have. It also caused me to reflect on my notions about child-rearing, which opened me up to re-examine praise. I offer praise to God constantly, it does me good and I’m pretty sure God’s Ok with it too. But when it comes to little children, I’m going to take Alfie Kohn’s lead, and the expectations set by Bella’s Dad. There is One who is above us all, who deserves the praise we offer, any time and without restraint.

We raise our faces to You.
You who has sustained
countless generations;
with the steadiness of Your love,
with the strength of Your wisdom.
You are the blood that unites us.
You are the pulse that revives us.
You are where we begin,
where we end,
where we are.

I look to You
with soul-bursting gratitude
for the blessing of family
and the gift of Your Presence
within and around us.




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