What is so wrong with "good job"?? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 91 Old 08-17-2009, 11:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am one who is supportive of compliments, encouragement and praise. I've read so many posts that are against this and I really do not understand why. I get the idea that a generic "good job" isn't really effective and that specific praise is much better, along with specific feedback in general, but I have such a hard time picturing a parenting style that doesn't genuinely celebrate and recognize achievement, no matter how small. When my dd does something new or challenging, I get excited and I tell her.

I know we do not want our children performing only to please mom and dad, we want the motivation to be intrinsic. But, aren't human beings also innately programed to want to please and to be recognized for their abilities, achievements and special qualities?

Are there studies that support non-praise? Who are the big opponents to praise other than Alfie Kohn? (I think I spelled his name wrong.)
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#2 of 91 Old 08-17-2009, 11:49 PM
 
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I think "Good Job" and similar comments are something that come pretty automatically because we are all used to it from when we were kids. I think the problem is that by itself can be a rather empty comment. If it is said to often with no further connections, it doesn't do much to promote feelings of self worth, can feel random, and some argue that it builds dependance on outside praise. (It makes me think of my ,mil and the phrase, "be careful" which is used constantly with no connection to what my dd is actually doing... it sort of becomes white noise!) If, however, you couple it with specific reference to what is "good," i.e. "Good Job, I see you have been working very hard to add details to your horse picture," then I think it becomes far more valuable as praise, and a child starts to build feelings of self-worth in him/herself (wow, mom was right, I did put a lot more work into this picture and it does have more detail) Just my opinion

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#3 of 91 Old 08-17-2009, 11:56 PM
 
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By the way, I'm to far out of teaching school to remember specific studies. I worked in a preschool that was big into "High Scope" (you can google "High Scope Preschool" and "Praise" for more specific articles and points) which specifically addressed the praise thing as a teaching tool, and it was my understanding (as a para) that "good job" by itself was generally frowned upon. I didn't understand the point at first either, but when I saw the more targeted praise in action, it made more sense.

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#4 of 91 Old 08-17-2009, 11:56 PM
 
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There is nothing wrong with general praise.
If a parent or carer can pepper in some specific praise (good job drawing... I especially like the........ bit in it) or whatever, just sometimes, but not so that you're stressed or worried about it; that would defeat the purposes. Children sense stress. If you're worried about how to do it then stick with what you know!

TRYING not to sound all 'know it all'......I say this all with experience of 15+ years in the 'field' but I'm not going to go into it all here (that would take a long old time!!) and I'm sure others have advice to impart. but that is my opinion, professional and personal.

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#5 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 12:42 AM
 
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I totally got this one day when my dh said "good job" to me and it almost felt like he was taking some of the credit. I would have preferred to hear a different kind of compliment that was completely me and showed he was really listening or paying attention like "you knew just what to say" or whatever. If you really pay attention to how you feel when you try to find a different compliment you may be surprised. I feel myself wanting to boast in my kids accomplishments and saying "good job" for some reason puts some of the credit back on me. When I say "you have used a lot of colors in that picture!" or "do you like your picture? Good!" It totally removes me from any of the credit and I almost feel a let down because I really want to take pride in my kids but I can sense this way is not optimal for them.
This might not make any sense and I do still say "good job" without thinking about it. My kids would rather I take the time to really see and comment on what they have accomplished I think.
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#6 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 12:52 AM
 
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I read 'Unconditional Parenting' and it gave the reasons for not saying 'good job'. So, I gave it up. My daughter is only two and this was a few months ago. She was clearly upset that I didn't tell her good job, so I stopped worry about it. Though I try to say "You did it." instead more often. I also noticed how often other people say good job to her too. I figured it wouldn't be the end of the world if I said it to her and also explained that she doesn't need to hear it.

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#7 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 03:32 AM
 
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I really don't think "Good Job" is a big deal, but I agree with the PP who said you should try to make it specific, instead of just saying it to say something.

My son is 8, and has heard Good Job in various forms throughout his life. He still managed to grow up into a great kid with a healthy self-esteem who isn't afraid to try new things out.
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#8 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 03:38 AM
 
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As a Montessori teacher I was trained that "good job" put a value on the child's work and to say "I like that" instead. Kids naturally want to please their parents and teachers. "Good job" is a value while "I like that" is just an opinion, and it leaves them free to form their own opinions as well.

I also think "good job" sounds a little condescending, but that's just a personal thing.

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#9 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 07:25 AM
 
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<shrug> Doesn't bother me in the least when people tell me I've done a good job with something.

It's in our "praise vocabulary" with our kids and I see nothing wrong with it. I also don't have a problem with making judgements about some things, which I guess makes me different than most here.
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#10 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 08:16 AM
 
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My dh and I had a loooong discussion about "good job" when dc was tiny and we concluded that it's a fine thing to say... if the person you're praising is doing a "job". And we think a "job" is something that you're doing because someone else wants you to, not because you want to, ykwim? For instance, putting away the dishes because your mother asked you to is a "job". Reading a book because you're interested in the story is not a "job".

We value intrinsic motivation for learning very highly, and I think saying "good job" often can really undermine that. It takes the kid's focus off their thoughts and feelings about what they're doing and focuses it on the adult's opinion, instead. I noticed this especially when dc was a toddler and we visited friends who "good job"bed him to death. Every time they said it (which was like about every 2 minutes!) he looked up to see what they were talking about and shifted his focus away from the activity and onto them, then back again. And as a consequence, didn't get very far with what he was trying to do.

So I'm not against saying "good job" ever, and I do say it once in a while myself, but infrequently enough that it has particular meaning and isn't just the general positive reinforcement catchphrase that lots of people use it as. For all the little daily things other parents say "good job" to, I'm more likely to say, "look at that!" or "you did it!" Something that shows dc I notice and take joy in his accomplishments, without putting a tick in the "good" column or the "job" column--both of which are unneccesary to give him the kind of attention he craves and the encouragement to keep on going. Does that make sense? It's early, lol.
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#11 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 09:44 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lavender_mama View Post
As a Montessori teacher I was trained that "good job" put a value on the child's work and to say "I like that" instead. Kids naturally want to please their parents and teachers. "Good job" is a value while "I like that" is just an opinion, and it leaves them free to form their own opinions as well.

I also think "good job" sounds a little condescending, but that's just a personal thing.
I think there is value in doing good work, so I see nothing wrong with praising it.

I'm fine with saying "good job," etc. While I love some of Kohn's work, in particular about homework, I disagree completely about this issue.
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#12 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 09:58 AM
 
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I think people who have a problem with praise are...well nevermind. Everyone needs to know and HEAR that what they are doing is correct and right. I grew up in a house that lacked praise and it was and still is very hurtful. I seem to, as an adult, seek praise from everyone around me in anyway I can get it, negative or positive.

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#13 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 09:59 AM
 
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#14 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:06 AM
 
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Originally Posted by chipper26 View Post
I am one who is supportive of compliments, encouragement and praise. I've read so many posts that are against this and I really do not understand why. I get the idea that a generic "good job" isn't really effective and that specific praise is much better, along with specific feedback in general, but I have such a hard time picturing a parenting style that doesn't genuinely celebrate and recognize achievement, no matter how small.
I think the point of it is to match your level to your child's. Giving specific feedback at first lets them respond with how they're feeling about the act - was it hard, did it take a long time, was it boring...
It's perfectly fine and wonderful to be happy for your child's achievements, but letting them lead the way lets them set the tone - not you. It teaches them to own their accomplishments instead of looking to see how their accomplishments are perceived by others, and basing their response off of that.

Giving specific feedback lets them see that you really do care, too, and aren't just offering lip service. "You looked like you were getting frustrated but you finished the puzzle" shows them that you saw the steps they were taking, the dedication they had at that moment. "Good job" doesn't really offer the same level of intimacy.
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#15 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:13 AM
 
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It's really interesting. If you want a different look at praise I find the section (and story) about praise in How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids will Talk to be a really unforgettable one. (A family's driving down the highway in a tunnel and the mom praises the kids for their behaviour and suddenly one kid dumps the ashtray so there's ashes all over the car... and later it turns out he was having Bad Thoughts and the praise made him feel so lousy he acted out.)

For me, generic praise rings pretty hollow. We use "thank you" when we're just appreciating things (or specifically, like "Thanks for dusting that, that's a big help today.")

And praise designed specifically to lead to a specific behaviour sometimes rings hollow to me too although I'm not above specific observations like "wow, that was a really nice trip to the grocery store. I had a really good time." (Meaning: you did not pitch a fit.) I think it's this last that Alfie Kohn is suspicious about and I kind of agree with him although I'm not really into absolutes. When praise becomes a reward for good behaviour, the relationship becomes transactional. And although of course any relationship does have give and take in it, I don't really want my son to learn that my appreciation is the "gold star" for good behaviour in a dispensing tokens kind of way.

I also think it is important for kids to be given the space to develop intrinsic motivation, and sometimes that means letting them sit in the space where there isn't immediate external feedback, even if that space is not always comfortable for everyone.

I certainly grew up in a home where being "good" was praised and I did become very suspicious about it and also in some ways a praise junkie – something I struggle with at work, still. I have watched my parents treat my son the same way and noticed him change his behaviour around them in order to get more praise. I think that's fine in short bursts but I wouldn't want him to be doing that all the time at home.

All that said though I love to share real delight in and with my son. From the outside that might look the same, but I think between us we have it worked out vaguely ok.

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#16 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:27 AM
 
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Encouragement is an important part of any relationship. I think the greatest achievement in itself knowing my encouragement to my kids gets them far.
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#17 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:34 AM
 
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I think Kohn makes WAY too big a deal out of this one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LilyGrace View Post
Giving specific feedback lets them see that you really do care, too, and aren't just offering lip service. "You looked like you were getting frustrated but you finished the puzzle" shows them that you saw the steps they were taking, the dedication they had at that moment. "Good job" doesn't really offer the same level of intimacy.
It doesn't have to be either-or, though. We don't have to avoid "good job" in order to express our presence and connection with our kids. For instance, "Wow! Awesome job! You were getting frustrated, but you really stuck with it!" :

Blankly spouting "good job" is pretty meaningless, yes. But inserting "good job", and similar phrasing, into meaningful converstation is fine, imo. I get the intrinsic/extrinsic motivation argument, but I don't buy it. Young children are wired to seek to please their caregivers, and that is a good thing. This changes as kids grow and develop, and that is a good thing, too. My 2 yo will beam with simple joy at my "good job!", but my 8 yo is much less affected. She still wants my praise and approval, of course, but has more complex needs.

Also, even if we remove "good job" and the like completely, we can't (and shouldn't, I would argue) remove our value judgments. Kids are perceptive; they can read our expressions, our body language, and our attitudes. We aren't neutral with regards to our dc's behaviors, so why pretend to be?
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#18 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:36 AM
 
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I too had issues with this idea when reading UP. My experience with praise comes from teaching high school. My students would raise their hands, jump up and down, yell, anything to get attention to let me know they had gotten a question correct or to show me something they were proud of. They would even tell me about their accomplishments from other classes. They wanted the praise. Seriously, do you want to make a high school kids day? Then put a sticker on their quiz; they love it. That one really shocked me. I thought they were way to old for it. I mean maybe they had been conditioned to need praise, I don't know.

I can see the point in trying to be specific in praise, but I can't believe that humans are wired not to want/need any praise. Let's say it's a total social construct, and I do a perfect job of never uttering a "good job" as my son ages (too late LOL). He goes to play at a friends house one day, and hears the friend's mom praising something her child has done. How does that make DS feel about my lack of praise? I don't know; praise is such an ingrained part of the human condition now. I don't think we can get away without it to some extent. I will try really hard to be specific when I use it.

I don't know. I'll start a college fund and a therapy fund, because it's impossible to get it perfect, right?

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#19 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:39 AM
 
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I think there are just SO many other ways to praise a kid, that saying "good job" seems kind of like a cop out. I mean, if I can't come up with anything better/more interesting/more descriptive to say, it's probably because I don't care that much about what it is I'm seeing.

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#20 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:40 AM
 
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I think there are other, more constructive ways of praising. I try to be specific about what it is I think they did well.

ie. If my son draws a picture, I'll say something like "I like how you made both outfits have a little bit of red. And I like the expression on her face! She looks like she's really happy."

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#21 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:44 AM
 
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I thought Jenn made a great point (as you often do, Jenn!) In the situations where I feel it's most appropriate to say "good job"... it's usually even more appropriate to just say "thank you".
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#22 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:51 AM
 
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Alfie Kohn is an anti-behaviorist, so what he's talking about is the use of praise as a behavioral tool. He is not not trying to get parents to stop expressing genuine appreciation.

Praise is often used as a behavioral tool. More so when I was a kid - the trend does seem to be shifting a bit - but still to some extent. The idea was that every time you saw a kid do anything you liked, you'd say, "good job!" with the hope that the child would do it again. The other side was to ignore behavior you didn't like, or say something negative about it, so your gave constant carrots for good behavior even if you never gave a stick for bad behavior, and in doing so you would shape your child's behavior for the better. Kohn feels that kind of empty praise can make children think your love for them is tied to when they do things you like.

He is not talking about genuine appreciation, as in, "Wow! I loved listening to your song!" He's talking about, "Good singing!", "Good eating!" "Good standing!" "Good pooping in the potty!" "Good sharing!" "Good jumping!". That kind of thing, often done almost continually through the day.
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#23 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 10:55 AM
 
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This is my honest opinion... if we are the point of critically evaluating a comment like "good job"... then we are over-analyzing parenting and need to just chill. Seriously! There are a million other issues with children that we need to be concentrating on rather than if "good job" is a traumatic and disturbing aspect of our parenting. Have we micromanaged parenting down to the very essence of HOW we praise our children? Ugh!

ETA: I don't say "good job" because it's just not something I say. I actually usually say "Bravo!", but in this context it's the same.
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#24 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 11:02 AM
 
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Here's a great article on generic praise vs. observation : The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids. There's 5 pages worth reading about how different types of observation helped children, and how generic praise hurts self esteem.
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#25 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 11:08 AM
 
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Human beings create meaning. It's an essential part of what makes us human. And one of our primary ways of doing that is through language. Words matter. Word choice matters. "Good job" and "bravo" don't mean the same thing (if they did... we wouldn't have different words for them!) The specific words we use and how we use them send a powerful message to our children about how the world is constructed and what we think is important. So why on earth wouldn't we critically evaluate our language?

IME, the "protesting too much" syndrome crops up when somebody wants to deny that something matters, because they don't want to have to critically evaluate their own lifestyle and choices. I can't count how many times I've been told I "think too much" when I talk about why we nursed full term, co-slept, don't vax, etc.

I happen to think *everything* about how I parent matters, and that critical thought is key to a full and joyous life. Others, of course, are free to disagree.
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#26 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 11:10 AM
 
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You think "good job!: is bad...you should come to my house and watch me treat my DD like she is a dog. "Come, come on, awesome, give it to me, GOOD GIRL!!!" - it's ridiculous.


I try so hard to keep it to a minimum with the "good girl"....but the fact is, it's an intensly hard habit to break for me, as I have spent years before she came along training our lady dogs to perfection. My pack is my life...so, before kids, THEY were my kids and every day all day I trained them to listen to me, come, stay, etc...they are marvelous animals and we love them so much...since our DD came, she has sort of melted into them...SHE LOVES THEM TO PIECES. THe three of them, little 8 lbs shih tzu and a 10lbs mutt...both of them sweet as heaven, and my little scallywag baby girl...they are inseperable...they roll around together, they snack together, they hike together....our dogs are with us 24/7 and they are like her sisters...so, when I call the dogs, I'm usually also calling my DD and it just sort of comes out as "come come!" - and they all come scampering to me! When my lady dogs do a great trick or listen to me the first time, whatever else...it's "good girl" and so, when my 15 mos old tugs her own shoes on or throws on her shirt all by herself....it's so hard to stop "good girl!" from slipping out and most of the time, to be perfectly honest, it does.

I don't want her to grow up doing things because she wants to please me...I lived that way as a kid and I don't want it for her...so I have been trying to curtail it and turn to more constructive praise "That is NICE!!!" or "You did it by yourself, cool, high five!" - but it's hard not to scoop her up and squeeze her and laugh out "good girl!" - I'm deeply, contagiously and emphatically in love with this little cherry blossom...she is the light of my universe and I love to praise her, joyously and with passion, as I watch her doing all of these incredible new things....she rocks my world, she absolutely lights me on fire....it's so hard not to just let it slip...now that she can climb and is talking, she can run, figured out how to carry things in a bag, which she slings over her shoulder...she rocks and it's super superhard for me to think before I speak...but I'll get there.

In the meantime....my kid is adored, played with, had free roam of a "kid safe" house and spends her days making things, making messed, eating awesome food and being snuggled and read to. There is no one in her life who is not SICK...I mean ILL...with love for her...and as far as I can see, there are worse fates for a kid in this world. We will try to stop the vague praises, we will try to incoporate more contstructive praises into her life...but in the meantime, she knows that we are her biggest fans and are so proud of all her little baby girl accomplishments!! :

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#27 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 11:18 AM
 
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This is my honest opinion... if we are the point of critically evaluating a comment like "good job"... then we are over-analyzing parenting and need to just chill. .
Bravo!
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#28 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 11:22 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mamazee View Post
He is not talking about genuine appreciation, as in, "Wow! I loved listening to your song!" He's talking about, "Good singing!", "Good eating!" "Good standing!" "Good pooping in the potty!" "Good sharing!" "Good jumping!". That kind of thing, often done almost continually through the day.
Yes, true. But that isn't how it filters down to the parenting discussions, you know? And, really, who does that? (good standing! lol) Most of us are in the middle, and Kohn is talking about two extremes (extreme praise, and extreme avoidance of praise).
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#29 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 11:26 AM
 
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Originally Posted by sunnmama View Post
Yes, true. But that isn't how it filters down to the parenting discussions, you know? And, really, who does that? (good standing! lol) Most of us are in the middle, and Kohn is talking about two extremes (extreme praise, and extreme avoidance of praise).
Like I said, people don't do it so much NOW, but really in the 70s, and particularly in the 80s, it was really common. And I think what he says about praise is taken out of context too often.

I have actually heard "Good standing!" and "Good rolling!" said to babies. But the other ones are more common.
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#30 of 91 Old 08-18-2009, 11:29 AM
 
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My mother-in-law actually said the words "good swinging"... to my 2 year old... who was in a baby swing... being pushed. who was she praising, there? :

Jenna ~ mommy to Sophia Elise idea.gif  (1/06), Oliver Matthew  blahblah.gif (7/07) and Avery Michael fly-by-nursing1.gif(3/10)

 

dizzy.gif Wading slowly and nervously into this homeschooling thing.

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