Friday, March 23, 2012

Praise Junkie

Last May, I did a post on the Parentopoly game that I played which had the rules that you could not PRAISE, THREATEN, BRIBE, REWARD, or PUNISH your child. I can safely say that I don't find it hard not to threaten, bribe or reward. The other two are much harder. There needs to be consequences for things - hence punishment. I hope everyone is nodding in agreement? But for today, I'm steering clear of punishment and I'm going to zoom in on 'praise'. 

Guess what? I've come to the sudden realization that I am a product of over praising. I am a closet praise junkie and I never realized it. More on that later...

Ever since I started hearing that using words like 'Good Job' or 'Well done' was detrimental to a child, I've been on the look out for articles on it. 'Five Reasons to Stop Staying "Good Job!"' by Alfie Kohn is the one I came across this week. It is an interesting read for any parents out there but in a nutshell, the five reasons are because its :

1. Manipulative - parents using praise to reinforce behavior that may make our lives easier in the future. I'm so guilty of this one. "Good job picking up the toys", "Good eating", "Good sitting" etc etc etc...

2. Creates Praise Junkies - making children seek out the pat on the back as an assurance of a job well done. This is where I fit in. I blame my father. He was a 'super praiser' as a father and now, it looks like he's doing an even 'better' job as a grandfather. Anyway, remember how I said I started calling a few dances at clogging. Well, I keep feeling that I need people to tell me that I did ok, even when I know I didn't make any mistakes. AND, I feel a little bummed and insecure if people don't - makes me think they're too polite to say that I did a bad job. 

3. Steals a child's pleasure - doling out a 'good job' indicates that an evaluation has taken place when it may not have needed to be. The child may have felt their own sense of accomplishment without anybody saying anything. I think I might have done this to Aaron already so now, he's always looking to see what I'll say about his drawings. 

4. Makes a child lose interest - Ah...when the praise stops, so does the work. I feel that I'm in that vicious cycle with Aaron's drawing. I'd better make the time to start things over again in that department. I'll have to take him out on a drawing excursion. Oh no, will that make him dependent on excursions to draw....this is never ending!

5. Reduces achievement - Praise creates the pressure to 'keep up the good work' and sometimes, a child may have lost interest, or no longer takes the risk to be as creative and the end result is not as good as it could have been. 

This is heavy stuff when you think about it because it can have an impact on almost every minute of a stay at home mother's day with a child. We're doing things with them all day long. Very often, they are cute, clever and creative. And, we're proud of them and like to demonstrate it. Yet, it can be so damaging - just imagine all the undue pressure I'm placing on myself now over the simple and supposedly fun job of calling a dance. 

A friend of mine also sent me this somewhat related article - The Trouble With Bright Kids. It talks about a study that was conducted on fifth graders and the effect of praise emphasizing either "effort" and "high ability". Both are praise and therefore 'not recommended' according to the previous article I mentioned but it does have some similarities such as the 'smart' kids starting to doubt themselves.

Well, its the weekend. We're just going to play crazy games around the house - I don't think there will be any need for praise so I won't have to worry about how not to do it. Is that me doubting myself because my parents don't pat me on the back and say that I've done a good job with my own children?

The internet is littered with parenting articles with all points of view, I guess we need to read and use whats applicable to us. 


Mike Svoboda said...
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Mike said...

All that stuff is true but every child is different.