Need some positive feedback? Read on.

A paper with a plus sign on it.

Three of my four kids are in elementary school. I enjoyed that phase of life a lot, and as a curious (ok, nerdy) student who liked to do her work, it was a time in my life where I received a lot of praise.

I loved that red pen, the hand drawn smiley faces, and the stickers. I liked my A plusses. I did the extra credit, and the teachers lapped me up.

(I know it isn’t always that way.)

So maybe you didn’t peak in elementary school like I did. What was your thing? Sports? Or style? Or tattoo art or skateboarding? My cousin who is a gifted auto mechanic used to take my roller skates apart and put them back together. When he was ten.

Everyone has a thing. You enjoy what you’re doing, you push yourself, get positive feedback and work even harder.

That positive feedback loop matters. It’s part of why people go gaga for cross fit (and why I can’t wait to try it). You’re measuring, seeing the impact, reinforcing the effort and so on.

It works. Whether it’s a rush of endorphins from your body or a coach giving you praise, it works.

It’s why some people make music while others spend hours shooting a puck in the freezing cold. A positive feedback loop motivates and helps you grow.

And so I wonder: where do you GET positive feedback now, as an adult? Is it your spouse? A friend? Cross fit? Me? Where do you get the feedback that you need to push a little harder and develop new skills? Sometimes family friends can be echo chambers — they love you but don’t give you the hard messages you need to push, evolve and grow.

And sometimes, adults get into a routine and don’t give ourselves opportunities to grow. We’re in the laundry-dinner-pickup routine, and we stagnate. We get our kicks watching our kids grow and compete, and that vicarious living has a cost.

My second question: how do you GIVE positive feedback now, as an adult? How do you help the adults around you elevate? What hard messages have you delivered that help them take action and make them better?

My son’s teacher asked parents to start signing the kids’ reading logs. My son does a real hack job, scribbles down a sentence or two. He’s not making an even 50% effort (according to me, in agreement with his teacher). He asked me to sign the page but not look at his work.

So I signed it, under protest. I wrote as much, and mentioned that I think he’s capable of more. And the teachers have told me to let them be the “bad guys”, they will push him to his ability, while I just do my loving unconditionally thing at home (in service of a better relationship with him). I acknowledged that above my signature.

At pickup, teachers gave me a “thumbs up” and acknowledged my restraint. And when the reading log came home I got that smiley face and a “nice job, mama!” in my favorite red pen.

My son’s teachers are helping me grow by inviting me not to do my job while they do theirs.  They invited me to focus on having a loving relationship with my son, while they guide him academically.

Who’s guiding you? And who might you help with those tough messages, like the teacher gave me?

Love you more,

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