Appreciations: Simple Sentences to Flip the Family Dynamic from Ugly to Downright Lovely

I talk a lot about the power of appreciations. They have the ability to transform the family environment in positive ways and bring family members closer together. We all want kids who are kind to each each other, show respect and gratitude to us as their parents and who extend kindness, understanding and acceptance to those they come in contact with.

You might be here because you live with kids who are critical, hurtful, focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right, lash out, and generally make you and others in your family feel like a doormat. That’s rough. Or maybe it’s more like – geesh, a little gratitude PLEASE?!

I’ve watched the parents I work with implement anything and everything to try and improve the atmosphere of the home – with little success. In all my years as a parent educator and as a mom who raised 5 kids, I have never found a strategy easier to implement and effective than appreciations.

So, what’s an appreciation, you ask?

I find it’s easiest to show by example.
Here are a few real world appreciations given by both kids and adults:

“I appreciate that you shared your poster with me so I could have one on my side of the room.” – Child, 8-years old.

“I appreciate that you included your brother in what you were doing this afternoon when he was bored. You were able to make both of you happy.”
– Mom of two, ages five and two.

“I appreciate that you stopped doing your own homework to help me with my history project (to sibling). I know you had to stay up a little late to get your own work done.” – Child, 15-years old.

“Thank you for playing with me (to a sibling).” – Child, two years old.

“I appreciate that you don’t embarrass me in front of my friends (to parents).” – Child, 12-years old.

“Dad, I appreciate that you put up the swing set for us because you had a lot to do to fix up the house.” – Child, 4-years old.

Pretty simple, right? You’re basically modeling to the kids how to compliment each other from a practical, genuine place.

Here’s how parents f*ck up this simple strategy:

You may notice that there is not a “good job”, “I’m proud of you”, or “I like when you do …” included above. That’s because those statements are praise.

The praise is a short, end of discussion, approval-based statement (that is given with good intentions) whereas appreciations are focused on encouragement and how one person’s actions genuinely affected the other’s. For more info on the differences between praise and appreciations check out this post.

Appreciations work magic:

As humans we tend to spend much of our days focusing on the negative. What needs fixing, what needs changing, and what we dislike. When we begin to train ourselves (and our kids) to thoughtfully share what we like, love, and appreciate about others, we open ourselves up to positive personal connections that have a ripple effect. Imagine if we sent our children out into the world looking for the good in people and with the confidence to share those appreciations openly. Imagine the impact it would have on everyone concerned.

Extra Tip:
If you’re looking for the fast track to everyone getting fluent with appreciations, I highly suggest finding a ritual for delivering them regularly. My best advice is offering them at weekly family meetings.There’s no better place to practice and receive appreciations and to witness the progress.

I can’t wait to hear some of the appreciations that are shared in your home. Please leave them below in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Appreciations: Simple Sentences to Flip the Family Dynamic from Ugly to Downright Lovely

  1. My son, Henry., age 12, plays hockey every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. His 10 yo sister loves to rock climb and he noticed there was a new rock climbing gym next to the hockey rink. He came home and suggested we bring his sister the next time he has hockey so she can try out the rock climbing. I told Henry it was thoughtful of him to notice the rock climbing gym and encourage her to go.

    1. Ah Henry – What a great brother. Thanks again for sharing these small wins Apple. It seems like your family is really hitting their stride because of your hard work and focus. Congrats to all of you.

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