Thinking About What We Praise Our Kids The Most For

The picture above shows London Hagebusch carrying a heavy bag of groceries. Just behind her is Haven Wheeler. And a number of other children were there too…

They were helping at our Thanksgiving Grocery Give Stuffing Party – it’s the event the day before the event. We ask people to come set everything up for the big day. The Stuffing Party was noticeably, beautifully diverse – people of all ages and races and socio-economic backgrounds serving together. Perhaps most striking, though, was the image of young children throwing themselves into the task. I mean, they were actually sweating. And they were having a blast.

I’m not sure if we made a big enough of a deal about it.

I think it probably got mentioned a few times – like in church during our “main” services. But I wonder if we made a big enough of a deal about it with the kids.

Please take a minute to watch this video of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin talking about how we teach kindness. Here’s a summary of what he’s saying…

Parents should reserve their highest praise of their children for when their children do a kind act.

Children generally get their praise for one of four things…

1. Academic achievements
2. Athletic abilities
3. Artistic achievements (cultural)
4. Appearance and looks (especially girls)

If we as parents would reserve our highest praise for when our children do something kind…

We’d raise a generation of people who most love themselves when doing kind things.

and that’s transformitive.

One last thing: I also wonder about this principle within the church, not just with children. What would happen if we reserved our highest praise for when our people did something loving and kind?

And I wonder what are the types of things (like the list of 4 things children get praised for above) we are praising, rewarding, talking about, tweeting about, bragging about, when it comes to the entire church?

What do you think?

kindness post large image




I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

3 Comments to Thinking About What We Praise Our Kids The Most For

  1. I’ve been thinking about it – the question of what church tends to reserve its highest praise / encouragement / compliments for…

    and if we answered the question based on Pastor social media posts, it might look something like this:

    1. That sermon was fire! Powerful. Preached the paint off the walls. It slayed me.
    2. Record-breaking attendance! Huge crowds today. Wow! God’s doing something amazing.
    3. My smoking-hot wife. Isn’t she beautiful? The most gorgeous woman on the planet. Mine!
    4. Rockin worship today! The band rocked it. Love that new song.

    Am I missing any?

  2. Really important questions, Brian. I would also suggest that, as members and as a church, we ask ourselves what we worry about. Are we worrying about whether we are kind enough? Whether we are teaching and inspiring our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews to be kind? Whether we are kind enough, not only to each other and to our family and our friends, but to the rest of humanity?

    Growing up, kindness was not a virtue on display in my home. My mother was generous and funny and unpredictable and a lot of other things, but rarely truly kind. If on occasion she might do something one could consider kind, she brushed it off or tried to hide it, and not out of humility. It was as though she wanted to protect the hard shell around the parts of her heart that had the capacity for gentleness and kindness. My stepfather was not kind. I had a tender heart as a kid and often felt as though I was living with strangers. I cried when my feelings were hurt and tears were a big part of my teenage years. I did not receive kindness or compassion in return.

    My father, however, is a kind person. After my sister and I were separated from him at ages 5 (me) and 3, not by his choice, we did not see him again until I was 30. Again, not by his choice – long story. As we got to know each other again after being reunited, I discovered that I had his spirit, his heart for life, his way of looking at things. His compassion. I came to believe that compassion is the gateway through which kindness can enter. I felt like I’d found a life compass when our relationship was restored. Over time, I got recentered and today I no longer feel guilty for being moved with compassion for the suffering of others or any hesitation toward being kind. And if someone is kind to me, I try to remember to call it out and thank them specifically for activating that part of their heart.

    All of this to say that I agree! The more we practice kindness and reward it in others, whether kids or even adults, the more I think it will grow and spread among people who are willing to be vulnerable and to give without concern about reciprocation. Even folks with rusty doors in their hearts can oil the hinges and let kindness flow through.

    Thank you for this blog, for your very good questions, and for your call to pursue the true virtues. This is important work for followers of Jesus and deeply rewarding when we make the leap into the river of life. We have to live IN the river, not on its banks.

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