I knew I was onto something when Michaela went running to Michael yelling, “Daddy, I ahhhhsome!”
“You did what?” he asked, pulling her into his arms after a long day at work.
“I ahhhhsome,” she repeated, and looked at me for confirmation.
“I’ve been telling her she’s awesome every time she uses the potty chair,” I explained.
Once again, my mom and Dr. Phil were right. The biggest motivator for a child is praise. Lots of it. Like, more of it than you realize. Like, when you think you’re doing way too much of it, you’re still not doing enough.
So, all day long, I praise my 2-year-old. Morning, noon and night. No matter how small the accomplishment.
And she loves it. Heck, now she expects it.
I’ve had to increase my praise vocabulary. And hers. I’ve become a praise thesaurus.
You’re magnificent, I say. Or talented. Or courageous. Or lovely. Or brilliant.
Of course, it took me months to get this vital parenting lesson. But when I think about it, I understand the principle.
God is the same way.
He relishes and longs for our praise. He is moved into action by our worship.
One of my favorite Bible characters is David. I can truly relate to him. His life, from his childhood, was purpose driven. He slayed a giant. He was selected by God to become a king. He led soldiers in the heat of battle. He conquered the hearts of beautiful women.
Yet, he was a sinner. Among other things, he had sex with a married woman and got her pregnant, then had her husband, a soldier, killed so he could marry her.
But the man sure knew how to praise God. The book of Psalms is full of his praises.
A few of my favorites:
Psalms 28:7 -- The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.
Psalms 34:1 -- I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psalms 106:1 -- Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Just recently, as I was in the midst of potty-training Michaela, I read Psalms 119:64 for the first time and made a praise pact with God. I promised God that at least seven times a day, I would praise him.
For life. For health. For my family and friends. For sanity.
I don’t praise him in expectation of a blessing. I praise him because he deserves it. Even if he never blesses me again, I could spend the rest of my life thanking him for what he has already done.
So in the midst of praising my toddler for every little thing she does – or doesn’t do, in some cases – I make a point to praise God.
If he’s anything like Michaela, God loves praise way more than criticism and complaints.
Just yesterday, I was lecturing Michaela for writing on her doll. She was caught red-handed and was upset that I was upset. I guess I went on for a bit too long and she started squirming.
“Okay, you can go now,” I said.
“Okay mommy,” she said, and turned to run back to her room.
She paused at the doorway.
“Mommy?” she said, a look of concern on her face.
“I ahhhhsome?” she asked nervously.
“You sure are. You’re terrific!”
With a smile, she went back to her toys.