Reinforcements

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The other day I was reading a little bit about Facebook algorithms and how every time you like, comment on or share something you are basically “voting” to see more of that person or page in your newsfeed. If you never like, comment on or share someone’s stuff, they will slowly fade out of your newsfeed and you won’t see them anymore unless you actually go searching for them. Which means, theoretically, that someone could post all the time, but if everyone ignores their posts, they will literally become invisible. I mentioned something about this and one of my friends said it sounded like high school.  The popular become more popular and the unpopular become even less popular. It makes me wonder how many people participate in “social” media, without any socializing happening at all. How many people are invisible? Our choice to acknowledge those around us isn’t limited to the internet. We make choices each and every day affirm those around us. This is so much more than “liking” a photo or status that someone posts.

I’m not talking about boosting people’s self esteem. It’s not about making people feel good. I truly believe that people live up or down to other’s expectations of them. This applies in all kinds of relationships. When teaching, I do my best to present my students with their potential as I see it in my mind’s eye. I praise liberally, but try to critique honestly. When talking to my own children, I find it more effective to praise their efforts than criticize their failures. Does this mean I never correct them? Of course not. Anyone who knows me or has seen me interact with my kids has probably seen my ‘mom face’ or heard the absolute authority in my voice when something is considered non-negotiable. But overall, I find affirmation of the good more powerful than fear of the bad. I want my children to obey out of love for me, not fear of me. I want my students to practice because I have inspired them and instilled a drive to succeed, not because they are afraid I will be angry if they don’t. It’s so important to acknowledge and encourage their efforts, because this motivates further effort.

I view my marriage and friendships this way too. Another fully formed adult is not going to change because you nag or criticize them. But don’t we all respond to positive reinforcement? If someone entrusts a task to me, because they believe in me, then I am going to do my utmost to carry out that task and not let them down. If, in assigning me the task, they express doubt in my ability to handle the task, suddenly seeds of doubt are sown in my own consciousness. Perhaps I am not up to it. Maybe I don’t have the necessary skill. Sometimes believing in someone else, means letting go of your own expectations. My husband is a terrific dad. But we don’t parent in the same way. When I leave the kids with him for a day, I can’t expect the same schedules to be followed, the same kinds of activities or the same food choices. Well, I can, but that would lead to frustration for everyone, because it means me micro-managing, him feeling belittled and the kids not getting to enjoy the kind of fun they have with dad when mom isn’t around. But if I just let him do his thing, his way, it works. When I leave the house, I am fully confident he can handle everything (which is a lot of confidence, when you have 4 kids!). Sure, when I come home, things may not be tidy, there may be banana in the baby’s hair, bath toys all over the house and delighted screaming coming from the epic computer game battle all the boys (big and little) are engaged in, but the kids are safe, happy and got to spend much needed time with their dad. But when my husband does do something that goes above and beyond (like washing dishes while staying home with the kids or something awesome like that), you better believe I am going to let him know I appreciate that. Boiled down. I try not to criticize the bad, but boy will I compliment the good.

Other people don’t have to do things my way. My way is not the only way. Maybe not the right way for someone else. I cook and eat a certain way. I raise my kids a certain way. But there are lots of good ways to do these things. I look around at the people I know and see so much good. Families working hard to spend time together. Couples working to build a relationship. Individuals following their callings. I delight in the differences. I love seeing people striving to live their lives in an intentional, purposeful way. And there are so many beautiful ways to do this! These are the things I “like”. In person and on social media. But overall, I would always rather “like” you in person. When I can see the smile in your eyes and you can hear the laughter in my voice. I don’t like the idea of my Facebook interactions voting someone up or down in priority. Eye contact, hugs and smiles go much further than little thumbs up sign.

And now, I have sufficiently talked myself in circles for one night. Go find the best in someone. Or maybe wait until tomorrow, so you don’t interrupt their sleep. In my house, sleepy people are hard to find the good in. :-)

 

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and the statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. Any products or techniques mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. I am just a mom who shares what works for me!