Select Page

Becoming quick with praise

A few years ago, my 5-year old daughter walked into our living room carrying the book, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. I can still picture its distinct orange cover held against her body by her 5-year old arms.

She climbed into my lap, asked if she could read to me, and began opening the front cover. With little hesitation, I agreed. It’s important to me that Alexa enjoys reading. And I looked forward to helping her through it.

Little did I know my help would not be needed. Using the sight words she had learned from her kindergarten teacher and simple steps to get through the tricky words (look at the picture, sound out the first letters, look for rhyming words), my daughter successfully navigated every word in the book.

Spoiler Alert: He ends up liking the green eggs and ham at the end.

When my daughter closed the back cover to the book, she looked at me with a huge sense of accomplishment. And when she did, she looked directly into the eyes of the only person smiling bigger than her.

I can remember looking down with a feeling of pride I could never communicate with words. The compliments were genuine and the hug was sweet. My daughter was learning to read. She knew it. I knew it. There was genuine joy in this moment.

Now, just to be clear, I know full-well her journey to become a reader is not complete. Green Eggs and Ham is hardly the highest piece of literature she will learn to read — after all, Pinkalicious is right around the corner.

Being able to sound out every word in a Dr. Seuss book is not the culmination of her education. I will still challenge her to read better with greater efficiency and recollection.

But in this moment, at this time, overwhelming joy and pride were perfectly accurate responses. My daughter had grown much in her ability to read over the previous weeks and months. She had worked hard to reach this point. Her progress deserved to be celebrated.

Too often, we live our lives from destination to destination. We look back and mark the significant accomplishments as the milestones that define our lives: a graduation, a new job, a move, or overcoming a tragedy.

We look back with fondness and we look desperately forward to the completion of the next: the accomplishment of a life goal, a significant desired award, a major life transition, finding the love of our life, or emerging from one of life’s dark valleys triumphant.

Unfortunately, life is not lived exclusively in these destinations. It is far more often lived in the pathways between them. Consider the fact that these destination moments are few, but the journeys between them are long.

These moments between destinations are where we prepare ourselves—and are prepared—to accomplish the goal, to weather the storm, and to choose the next destination carefully.

But because we live in a results-oriented world, finding pride and joy during these moments between destinations is difficult, but absolutely essential for effective parenting. Wise parents praise the little victories they notice in their children’s lives.

• When your daughter goes through her room and picks out a toy to give to those less unfortunate, celebrate her decision—even if she’s got a whole closet full of others.

• When your son notices something out of place in the house and puts it away, praise him for it—even though his own clothes litter the shared bathroom.

•When your boy buys a candy bar for his friend, compliment his generosity—even if it came from the $10 you gave him.

•When your teenage daughter sticks up for a bullied-girl at school, thank her with tears in your eyes—even if you know she’ll fight with her own brother when you get home.

Invest into your child to become a better person, a better student, a better citizen, and a better contributor to the world around you. Dream and hope for the great accomplishments that will be known as their defining moments.

But along the way, don’t discount the progress they have already made. Become quick with praise. Because that is where life is lived. That is where strength is found. And that is where joy is deserved—both in your child’s life and in your own.

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Rachel

    The first non-school book my daughter read to me of her own volition was also “Green Eggs and Ham” and I almost burst with pride and delight, as did she. She was also aged 5. Dr Seuss is loved worldwide.

    Thanks for the lovely article.

  2. Christine

    The other morning, there was only enough milk left for one person. Each of my 3 kids wanted it and after arguing over it for a few mins they decided together to save it for me for my morning coffee. I was blown away by their thoughtfulness and made sure they knew how much I appreciated it. As they’ve gotten older and the challenges of parenting have increased, it’s the intentional habit of noticing the little things to praise and celebrate that gets us through the day.

  3. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    Love this! Especially the part about not neglecting the little victories. One of my goals for 2014 is to be more intentional to speak the words of encouragement I often think but neglect to say.
    I think I forget the power that words can have in our lives-thanks for the reminder 🙂

  4. Betsy

    Yes! Yes! and Yes! I so agree, and we all need reminders. I love your point about praising our kids as they go through the process. We do tend to be results oriented. A great word for me since my teenager is struggling with advanced mathematics and making slightly lower grades as a result. I’ll have to look for opportunities to praise and encourage him.

  5. Shelly

    Since ten of my kids still live at home- ages 14 down to 8 months- most of our day IS about getting to the next thing. Thank you for the reminder I desperately needed!

  6. Faigie

    It’s really hard to remember to give those little bits of praise if you didn’t get it yourself growing up, but sooo important.

  7. Debbie

    My daughter is 10 now and I will never forget that moment of hearing her actually read a book all on her own…I just felt so overwhelmed with emotion! Thanks for this reminder to notice all of the moments along the journey!

  8. Andrea

    At our house we’re focusing on praising each other as husband and wife. What’s been interesting is the trickle down effect it’s having in our whole family. I’m hearing my kids tell each other how awesome they are. Genuine praise is contagious!

  9. Penny

    This is so true! I am working on criticizing less and praising more. So hard!

  10. Franziska

    Great article. I think the aspect about praise that is extremely important is the fact that we need to be completely present when we praise our children. When we just keep “good job-bing” our kids constantly without really being there our praise is no longer special and powerful.

  11. Ann

    I think I’m good at praising achievements, but I’m not always best at dropping things to be in the moment. That’s what struck me the most here and is something I hope to get better at.

  12. Christyn

    Thanks for this beautiful post. It’s a great reminder to something we seem to so easily forget to do as parents.

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.