Play the Ball, Not the Man!

As parents and teachers, sometimes we want to praise, at other times we need to rebuke. Either way, how do we put our point across with maximum effectiveness?


Adults entrusted with the character training of children have few weapons in their armory as powerful as praise. Just how powerful, we all know from our own experience.

If we don't use this tool as much as we should, it's probably because we haven't trained ourselves to recognize opportunities to do so. It's a skill that must be learned, like any other.

But a weapon that's not controlled is, of course, an instrument of destruction.

Praise is not something to be administered haphazardly. On the contrary, it has to be perfectly targeted. And the most effective praise is specific, appropriate and objective.It is targeted not to the personality of the recipient, but rather to his or her achievements.

Global praise such as "You're a wonderful girl," may give a child the impression that her inherent worth is dependent on her actions. Again, if she senses that she does not deserve excessive praise, she may reject it out of hand.

On the other hand, if the praise truly matches the deed, the recipient will, of his own accord, draw the appropriate inferences. (Incidentally, although we're talking about children, these principles apply with anyone.)

If your son comes home from school with an outstanding poem he has written, it won't be helpful to exclaim: "Tommy, you're the world's best poet!"

But perhaps you can tell him: "Your imagery is so vivid that it's as if I can see the scene you're describing before my eyes!" He'll then conclude: "I can write poetry well."

Now - if all this is true when we are dispensing praise, how much more does it apply when it falls to our lot to rebuke someone!

Do you play football? The object of the game, irrespective of which variety you are playing, is basically to get the ball to the far end of the field. I'm no sportsman, but I remember that when we played Rugby as schoolboys, it was legitimate to grab a player of the opposing team and cause him to fall, in order to wrest the ball from his possession.

Occasionally, an overzealous classmate would forget that this "tackling" was a means to an end, and not an end in itself! He would be duly reprimanded with the words: "Play the ball, and not the man!"

Let's end with another true-life incident cited by Ginott in one of his books.

Seven year-old Sammy is sitting at the table, playing with a plastic cup.

"Don't play with that cup! You're always dropping things," chides Mom.

Sammy promptly drops the cap. It shatters into many pieces.

"Look, I told you so! You're so clumsy. Why are you so stupid?"

"You're stupid, too! Didn't you break Daddy's razor last week?"

"You're cheeky too! How dare you call your Mother stupid!"

"You called me stupid first!"

Mom grabs hold of her little boy to give him a good whacking. Sammy resists. In the ensuing struggle, Mom cuts her hand against some glass.

The sight of blood unnerves little Sammy, and he runs away in panic. It's late in the evening by the time he's found.

That night, no one in Sammy's household sleeps well.

Too bad that Mom had not merely said:

"Sammy, you dropped the cup. We can't afford to buy new cups all the time. Here's a broom and dustpan to mop it up."

Now what about YOU?

When you praise and when you reprimand, and communicate with others in all sorts of ways - do you play the ball...or the man?

Azriel Winnett is creator of Hodu.com - Your Communication Skills Portal. This popular free website helps you improve your communication and relationship skills in your business or professional life, in the family unit and on the social scene. New articles added almost daily.

In The News:

The Art of Parenting  The Daily Star
Self-parenting key to emotional healing  The New Indian Express
Your guide to a fertility checkup  The Indian Express

Create Your Dream Family

There has been much attention in the media of late... Read More

A Dads Thoughts On Dads day

21 Reasons I Love Being A DadWhat you will read... Read More

Teaching Your Child To Lift a Car

Yesterday my husband Wade took the day off (that's one... Read More

Patterns For Plus Size Children

Plus size children and overweight children need patterns and clothing... Read More

You Want Whaaat???

Not too long ago my teenage daughter approached me with... Read More

Intermission: Wood Chips

I wanted to share with you one of the most... Read More

Why Do People Have Kids?

Despite the theory that people have kids because they want... Read More

A Minute Can Turn into Hours for the Child of a Work-at-Home Mom

In theory, working at home is an ideal situation. But... Read More

Unique Baby Names

What's in a name? Er?well, everything, really! Of course your... Read More

Using Diet, Counseling, and Attend to Overcome ADHD

When it comes to the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity... Read More

Your Child?s Self-Esteem is in The Cards

Research has shown that the present generation of children worldwide... Read More

My Children

I have been a single mom for almost 20 years.... Read More

Medications: Addressing Parental Fears and Concerns

Recently, a parent came to me, conflicted over whether to... Read More

Parenting Your Teenager: 3 Ways to Make the Time

Every now and then I'll get a story sent to... Read More

Single Parents: Give Yourselves Credit

Single parents are not often thought of as good parents.I... Read More

Lifebooks: Every Adopted Child Needs One

Information is gold when you are adopted. Every tiny piece... Read More

A Mothers Love

Once upon a time there was a beautiful bird whose... Read More

Planning the Ultimate Kid Birthday Party

Child Party Planning Guideline #1)Pick the ThemeYour child is going... Read More

The Best Gifts Ever: Life Experiences Every Child Should Have

This past holiday season Canadians spent over $45 billion-with parents... Read More

Are Your Kids Driving You Crazy? How Character Building Charts Keep You Sane

Who lives in your house? Are they driving you "crazy?"... Read More

What You Can Learn About Life From Your Children

You can learn a lot from children.The best part of... Read More

A Night Out For Mom & Dad

Is your babysitter watching the kids and your k9 family... Read More

Introduction to the Medications Used in the Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder

There are several treatment options available to help improve the... Read More

Labeling is Disabling: Achieving Congruent Communication

A small town, somewhere in the world, was managed by... Read More

Breastfeeding, Its My Right

My name is Duncan and I'm 2 years old. I... Read More