I went to a parent's session at Aaron's school yesterday called Parentopoly. They run these sessions several times each term to give parents the opportunity to have discussions on how to best deal with various parenting aspects and to perhaps open our minds to how other people might approach common situations. The principal usually conducts them and while there are of course no right, or wrong answers, he provides some guidance on what a Montessori approach to the various situations would be.
Parentopoly is a game that the principal invented where we put out some numbered cards on the floor in a random path around the room, roll a couple of dice and each person moves themselves along as a token. We had to turn over the number card where we landed, read out the situation and then say how we would respond to each of those situations.
The rule was that we couldn't PRAISE, THREATEN, BRIBE, REWARD, or PUNISH.
From memory, here are some of the scenarios that came up.
...Your child does the dishes without being asked.
...Your child bites another child.
...Your child is not invited to a birthday party.
...Your child brings a drawing to you and asks if its beautiful.
...Your child draws a picture of some very lifelike animals.
I got the biting one and I am thankful for that. All it needed was an explanation. The other ones, especially the ones that we might automatically shower praise for, were quite tricky when the discussions started going.
For example, saying 'WOW' to the lifelike animal drawings was ultimately deemed not the best response. Neither was saying it was 'good' or that you were proud of the child or that you were impressed. My automatic responses were all triggered by the theories of timely recognition and positive reinforcements. What do I do if I'm not supposed to do that? Why don't we do that?
I could see that some of the newer parents were also confused but the parents with older children (and who also had been with the Montessori environment for some time) gave the impression that all this was natural and that it works out best and that they ALL implemented it on a daily basis.
By the time I left, I was confused, intrigued, and maybe feeling a little guilty. I gathered that the rationale is that you don't want to rob the child of the satisfaction by deciding for them that something is fantastic. You don't want to teach them to need approval. They should be self reliant and also derive their own sense of approval for a job well done. (Several week's ago, there was actually a program on TV on how all the praises heaped on children, whether deserving or not, was contributing to a generation of narcissists.)
I liked what I was hearing but I was barely understanding it and I absolutely couldn't see myself not using praise in those praiseworthy situations. What do I say? So I went online when I got home and it was very interesting reading. I found this article on the 5 Reasons To Stop Saying 'Good Job'. There was also another link that offered some insight as to how else a parent can deal with such situations. The simplest one being "You did it!"
There are merits to the Montessori philosophy and I do agree with many of their points but I still believe that there can be some place for praise in a child's (or an adult's) day. I don't believe in pouring it on all the time but surely it is possible to keep in mind all the points about nurturing a child's own self satisfaction while giving them realistic pats on the back every once in a while. I'll definitely be more careful with my choice of words and not use anything too over-the-top like "you're the best artist I know of".
How would you handle some of these situations?
p.s. There was mention of grandparents at the Parentopoly session and supposedly they are allowed to say whatever they like because children know that different rules apply to them.