The art of praise—what is known as positive reinforcement in the current psychological jargon—is an essential art for a parent or teacher to master... The teenagers who sit in my office tell me again and again, “My dad gets all over my case when I mess up at school, but when I bring home a good grade he acts as if it’s nothing—that I’m finally doing what I should have been doing all along.” Stop and think. How long has it been since you took a full 60 seconds to talk to your son or daughter about some fine thing they’ve just done? —Alan Loy McGinnis
A nurse ushered me into my grandma’s room. Lying in the hospital bed, she looked so small. Her eyes were closed. I sat down quietly.
I was on my way to seminary and full of self-doubt. I had just given up a full scholarship to medical school, and everyone thought I was making a mistake. I desperately wanted Grandma’s advice, but the nurse had warned me that she didn’t have much strength left. After half an hour, Grandma hadn’t stirred, so I just started talking. Suddenly she woke up, asking, “Danny, is that you?”
She told me how her faith had guided her all her life. After a few minutes, a great peace settled around us. I kissed Grandma and turned to leave, but then I heard her whisper some parting words. I leaned over to listen. “I believe in you,” she said.
Grandma died that night, but in more than 20 years of work as a Christian psychologist, I have passed on her words many times. Four simple words can make a lifetime of difference.
The week before my father died, when I was a senior in college, he took me aside and showed me a box of clippings of newspaper and magazine articles he had written and hidden away. When I asked in surprise why he hadn’t shown me these before, he replied, “Your mother discouraged me from writing because I don’t have a college education, so I’ve done it in secret and she doesn’t know.”
Mother had not meant to be a discourager, but she had stated what seemed an obvious fact to her: If you’re not educated, you shouldn’t write.
My father had not let this attitude depress him, but he had “hidden his light under a bushel.” He told me he had written an article for the
Advance magazine but it had not been published. “I guess I reached for something a little too big this time,” he shared. How touched I was that he had told me about his interest in writing and the article he had submitted to the Advance magazine! Within days my father dropped dead in a Boston subway station, and on the day of the funeral the new issue of Advance arrived—with his article published in it. Had he not confided in me, I would never have opened that issue.
I have the framed article with my father’s picture hanging in my study, and each time I glance at it I wonder what that man might have become as a writer if only someone had believed in him.
We live in a discouraging world full of people who put us down. What bright lights we can be when we say the simple words, “I have confidence in you!”