My oldest daughter is a people pleaser. She doesn't like for anyone to be upset with her. She's the child who is willing to give up what she wants rather than have others be unhappy. She needs to hear words of praise often or she will feel as if she has failed.
This can be a wonderful trait. Kids like this are the compromise brokers in childhood disagreements. They are the ones who can lead a group because they take everyone's opinion into account. These kids are usually not argumentative and are rule followers.
But always seeking the approval of other people can land these kids in hot water, too. They can become so fixated on making everyone happy that they get themselves into situations that are difficult to get out of. Instead of saying "No" or walking away from a volatile situation, they may jump in to try to fix it.
People pleasers have to be careful that in their quest for human praise they don't cross the line into things that will not garner praise from God. This trait can keep them from standing up for what's right because they are worried what others might say.
When Jesus was teaching, many Jews were so concerned about what others would think, they refused to speak up and say they believed Him. The approval of men outweighed the approval of God. John 12:42-43 says "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God."
We don't want to love human praise more than we love praise from God. Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged when we do the things that God asks of us, yet we hear no human praise. Sometimes God asks us to do things that will garner us criticism from others. That's tough for anyone, but it's especially difficult for those with an innate desire to please others.
So, what do we do with those people-pleasing children? How do we turn them from people-pleasers to God-pleasers without changing their innate personality?
- Help your child set priorities. Role play with your people-pleasing child. Ask him what he would do in certain situations where doing what God says is right would result in someone being unhappy. Talk about how God wants us to always do what's right -- even when it means someone else will be upset. Explain that it's always more important to please God than it is to please people.
- Show your child where God offers praise to people in the Bible. Talk about how God called David a man after His own heart and how God found Noah to be the only righteous man on earth. Talk about how Jesus praised the widow who gave all she had. Explain to your kids that even though God doesn't speak audibly, He rejoices when we choose to follow Him rather than seek the approval of people.
- Praise your child for making good decisions. Be the voice that offers praise when your child chooses to do what's right even though it means others are upset. Your opinion means a lot to your child. If they know you are happy with them, it goes a long way toward easing the sting of disapproval from others.
Pleasing God is always better than pleasing others, but the rewards may not be as apparent or immediate, especially to a child. Help your family choose, today, to do what's right even though it may cost them the approval of their peers.