Your youngest daughter makes an effort to buss the table, but leaves out a small spot. Your teenager mows the lawn, but misses a patch. You request your husband to get you your favorite make-up on the way home, and he gives you the wrong brand. How do you respond? Is your first instinct to criticize or correct them? Or do you praise the effort? Do you recognize the positive?

I'm sure most of you have already heard this statement at one time or another. "You always see the negative things first!" Well, I have - coming from my won family and our students here in West Ridge Academy. If I have to be completely honest with myself, I would say that they are actually right most of the time. I simply don't put enough effort into telling my children, my wife, or my students that I appreciate the positive things that they do. I know within myself that I recognize the positive things that they are doing, but sometimes it's not actually enough - you need to let them know that you appreciate their efforts and tell them. When I realize my shortcomings, I instinctively promise myself to be more generous with my praises the next time around.

What role does positive recognition play in our relationships? According to studies, positive reinforcement is a much more powerful tool in influencing consistent good behavior rather than relying in punishments. In short, if we praise kids for the good things that they have done, it is more likely that we will see them do it over and over again. Our students here in West Ridge need the praise even more since most of them have entered the academy with low self-esteem, thinking that they will never amount to anything good in life. As a matter of fact, a new study conducted at West Ridge clearly shows that positive reinforcement must be used in order for our programs to succeed.

In the said study, a sample size composed of 42 subjects (parents, staff and students) were asked to relate their experiences in West Ridge and share the factors which led to their Change of Heart and eventually led to the program's success. Building relationships inside and outside the campus was cited as a crucial step towards achieving genuine change, and one factor that creates relationships is the "recognition of change within one's self and that of others".Our programs stress the importance of "seeing" the change that is happening with each other in order for parents and child to build that much needed confidence with one another. And for that change to continue, it should be seen as something that is desirable.

To make that happen, West Ridge Academy suggests the following pointers:

1. The praise or recognition should be sincere. We can usually tell when someone is saying something they do not believe, and we feel patronized for it.

2. Recognizing even the small changes are important. Even though a lot more may still need to be done, sometimes just recognizing the small efforts are enough to keep the ball rolling.

3. Train yourself to notice the good things. Most of us just notice the bad things so that we may immediately jump in and offer our opinions on how to fix them. We should refocus our way of thinking and try to highlight the positive things that are going on around us, especially those that are coming from our kids.

4. Confer with leaders, teachers, and others, "what were the good things that happened this week which I wasn't fortunate enough to see?" They can be your eyes and ears sometimes. If they do not tell you, you will probably miss it.

5. Do not shower them with praises that it loses its significance. Sometimes we are so eager to praise that we overdo it to the point where it could be counterproductive because: 1) it could take the focus away from the important aspects that still need to get done, and 2) it could appear insincere since almost everything gets praised anyway. Either way, it's vital that recognition should be given at the right time and at the right amount.

This may be a shift from the way many of us are. But to just go through the process and make the effort in trying to recalibrate our perception and also the way we communicate our affections will all be worth it. You just have to hearken back to those days when you received praise, especially at a time when you least expected it, and you will realize its tremendous effect on your self-esteem and your thirst to get that praise all over again. The recognition of progress is not a wonder drug that can cure all the ills of a relationship, but it is a vital step towards generating a positive concept of one's self which is very important for our children and even for us.

Author's Bio: 

West Ridge Academy has been helping youth for almost 50 years with more than 25,000 alumni.