Our DS is 22 months and we are following Unconditional Parenting, more or less.
Recently DH and I have become rather confused as to what constitutes praise exactly. I am totally convinced that praise can be quite damaging, although I find it impossible to totally avoid and I think some praise is just fine. The question I have is: what is the difference between praise and encouragement? How can I tell if I'm using praise?
Here is a typical situation: DS was using his imagination and sticking his eating utensils into an egg carton. He got excited and said "Mama look here!" ~ a new phrase he says often. I then mirrored his excitement and said "Wow!! You're like a builder, making your own building there aren't you?" DH then gave me the feedback that we praise DS too much, and we had a discussion about what exactly is praise. I don't think mirroring a child's excitement is praise....but then again DS doesn't need a "World's Greatest Person" medal because he stuck a fork in a carton, kwim?! Was I too excited? DS is developing so fast right now, and it seems every week there are brand new capabilities, and he often wants me to look at him as he does something. It is these times I don't know how to react. When he displays pride in being able to climb a structure at the playground for the first time, I mirror that and also show my own joy at watching him meet new challenges. That, to me, is encouragement. But I wonder: where is the limit where it becomes unnecessary praise? I sometimes feel like I want to make a big hurrah about the tiniest things, just because I'm excited about it, and to help him feel good about himself. But I know the UP principle here is that a child should be encouraged to feel good about themselves just for being who they are...not based on what they do or when they accomplish something. I also want to be clear that I love him no matter what, which I hope he understands by the way I am loving and accepting through his tantrums and frustrations as well.
This is one area where I feel the general conditioning is so overpoweringly strong. It really is hard to see praise as a negative, and to avoid laying it on too thick or at all...but again, I am fully convinced that too much praise is not a good thing. Could anyone help me sift through this? If you have any examples of encouragement vs. praise, please share. Many thanks!