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#1 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I know many of you here don't use praise at all, and certainly don't say, "Good job!" to your kids. I try not to "pass judgment" (positive or negative) but I'm apparently pretty terrible at it so far. DS is nearly 3, and when he does things that either astound me (like reciting the alphabet even though we'd never coached him on it, and only sang the ABC song once to him) or that he was afraid to try and then succeeds, it comes out.

He is deep in the stage of "I can't do it" even if "it" is something that he's done before. He's a little afraid to try new things and I want to encourage him, and when he DOES get there, the positive reinforcement seems like the way to go.

Yesterday he asked me several times to say, "Good job!" to him, to Daddy, to his plastic bath toy.... I told him the plastic bath toy would have to do something great for me to say that...

So how do you encourage your kids to try and share their enthusiasm for learning new things without praise? Or is it not really about praise, but about any emotional connection that indicates approval/disapproval? I'm not quite sure I get it, but I know I don't want him to become dependent on my approval to do things.
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#2 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 08:55 AM
 
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I think at nearly-3 he might be looking for evidence that you are paying attention/ACTUALLY getting what he did, as much as seeking the true "good job" sentiment, kwim? And/or possibly trying to figure out what would be a "good job" as opposed to a normal expectation.

With my DD (who is 4.5 and just brought me a slip of paper with her name written on it after zero effort on anyone's part to teach her how to write it!) i tend to express my enthusiasm as i would to an adult. Like i said "wow, did you just do that!?" and she said "yep" and i said "i never knew you could do that! I'm really impressed! That's so exciting isn't it?!" and she smiled and nodded enthusiastically and i hugged her.

HOWEVER - i am not one to shy from praise. I believe all children (all humans in fact) look for signs of approval/disapproval in those around them, because it is how we learn social norms. So hiding how i feel about a given thing probably won't do much good anyway, though obviously i tend to meet her own feelings in my own (i.e. if she's crying i don't say "shut up, it's FINE" i say "oh honey, do you wish it was easier/tidier/better?" and try to talk about what is happening for her) and not be overly praiseful or critical. My mother believed too much praise meant kids worked to make others happy and not themselves so she was consciously nonchalant about our "good jobs" and i'm afraid i felt crushed/ignored for my achievements as a kid and tried VERY VERY hard to get the approval i believe i NEEDED from my mother for a long time.
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#3 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 09:25 AM
 
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The word praise is related to appraisal. I try to voice joy and enthusiasm and show I'm paying attention without making an appraising judgment. So "I see!" or "You did it!" or a question works for us. Anything that doesn't appraise what was done. I agree that kids need to hear our joy and enthusiasm in what they do, but I don't agree that it has to be praise.
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#4 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 09:29 AM
 
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you may enjoy this read - it speaks about effort rather than results (sorry if already posted. nak)
http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/
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#5 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 09:39 AM
 
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I confess that I use "good job!" a little too much. I try to avoid just using empty praise though, which I think is the biggest problem with a simple "good job" and nothing more.

I'll talk about some aspect of the process or the product that gets my attention ("the ice looked really rough today, those backward skating drills must have been tough, how did you manage to finish 10 of them?"). I'll explain what details I like ("when you were performing that scene, your body language was really expressive").

I always, always, ask them to give me their own self-assessment ("tell me what you think") and follow up on it if I think it's too harsh. I often try to get their self-assessment before I give my own thoughts, because it will usually lead to a good discussion without empty praise.

Thankfully, I use "good job" much less now, but I know it's almost a reflex and it will probably always pop out from time to time.
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#6 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 09:40 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mamazee View Post
The word praise is related to appraisal. I try to voice joy and enthusiasm and show I'm paying attention without making an appraising judgment. So "I see!" or "You did it!" or a question works for us. Anything that doesn't appraise what was done. I agree that kids need to hear our joy and enthusiasm in what they do, but I don't agree that it has to be praise.



For example, with art work, "Oh, let me look at it" and actually taking it in hand or remarking on some details conveys a lot of appreciation, as opposed to a quick glance and a "good job!".
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#7 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 09:53 AM
 
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Right now our big one is to clap and say, "Yay, Franklin!!" (My son is 17mo) Sometimes I use "Good Job" and I think it's all about moderation. I also think that tone of voice matters too. If your child helps you with something and you say, "Thank you for helping!" in an excited tone it works better than "Good job" in a moderate tone YKWIM?

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#8 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 10:02 AM
 
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I do use praise, but also try to make observations that let him know I'm interested in what he does, maybe something like: "Ohhh, look at that! You used ALL your crayons to draw this picture for daddy." This while sitting him on my lap, pointing to all the different colors, asking him to tell me about his drawing (even though DS is still a toddler and doesn't speak that much, hehe).
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#9 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 10:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by AFWife View Post
Right now our big one is to clap and say, "Yay, Franklin!!" (My son is 17mo) Sometimes I use "Good Job" and I think it's all about moderation. I also think that tone of voice matters too. If your child helps you with something and you say, "Thank you for helping!" in an excited tone it works better than "Good job" in a moderate tone YKWIM?
You are definitely right about this. DS will "steal" my water w/o asking (sometimes he forgets...) but then he'll say, "Thank you for sharing your water, Mommy!" I guess I just need to change up my language so he doesn't notice my predictable patterns...
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#10 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 10:47 AM
 
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I don't use "good job" much. I've always said "You did it!" a lot. The kids are 3 and 5 now and it's nice to hear that one come out of their mouths -- "I did it!" And I like how it keeps it all about them - somehow "good job" and even "thank you" sound like they're more about me, like they had to present their result to me and I deem it worthy. (Of course "Thank you" is wonderful for when they gave something to me as a gift or did something to help me specifically!)

For amazing achievements (), like ds2 deciding to read a page out loud to me and trying to sound out words on his own - I really want that to be his achievement and give him space to enjoy it. "Yes, that's what it says!" "Did you know you could read that word or did you just figure it out!" or a lot of times I just smile and go on and read the next page, so he's just hopefully feeling like he's a big guy, really helping the story along.
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#11 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 11:02 AM
 
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I don't think good job is inherently evil. Honestly, sometimes I think its a really good thing to say.

We play a game with kiddo that is kind of a cross between 'if you're happy and you know it' and 'simon says.' She loves to learn/try new things and she adores 'if you're happy and you know it' so we sing the first line over and over but change what the 'command' is so its not just clapping hands and stomping feet and shouting hooray. Animal sounds, pointing at body parts, hugging, spinning, jumping... whatever she has been working on or we know she loves to do gets included.

When we try a new thing ('if you're happy and you know it... touch your knees!' and she figures it out she gets a nice loud good job! with hand clapping. Its obvious she is proud of herself and we don't need to be more specific because it is pretty aparent that we were paying attention and we are good jobbing something pretty specific. Sometimse we'll give a 'those ARE your knees!' but saying too much disrupts the rhythm of the game and that can get annoying for her.

now, if she did something without it in the context of the game where we asked for it, she would get more than a good job. Bringing over a drawing and we'd talk about it. Showing me a new dance move and I'd comment more specifically.

I really think it all comes down to tone of voice and the moment. I don't think parents NEED to always be completely specific on their joy and encouragement with their children. Children are smart and will know when you understand and are actually paying attention just based on your tone of voice and your body language. A good job when you are very involved at the moment and are expressing joy I personally feel will be equal to a 'wow, you just jumped with BOTH feet leaving the ground! How fun was THAT!' when kiddo does it after trying to get your attention.

Kids really just need to know you truly care and are paying attention. The specific words you say aren't necessarily going to make or break that. If you are involved and its clear you really SEE what they are showing off/trying out/proud of that is really what is going to resonate most with them.
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#12 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 12:00 PM
 
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I don't think good job is inherently evil. Honestly, sometimes I think its a really good thing to say.
I have to agree. Perhaps if you say nothing else, but when it's qualified? I don't see the problem. For example, my daughter's been struggling learning a new position in her sport. She's worked hard to learn the skills that are different from her previous position - and it's really paid off. At her last game, I could really see the improvement. So I told her something along the lines of "I could really see how hard you've been working at xyz skills 'cause it really paid off today - Good Job!" I see nothing wrong with that.
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#13 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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I'll one up you and say we use "Good girl!" a lot. Along with clapping and insanely big smiles. DD is 11 months and only understands rudimentary words, so if I said "wow, you placed all the circles into the right shape on your toy!" she'd probably understand "wow--blahblahblahblahblahblahblah!".

However, with my friends' kids, who walk and talk, I usually say things like "you coloured inside the lines? you're really good at drawing" or some such thing, because I know they can understand that. We use more and more words with DD, so I suspect our responses will change over time.

Woman, Wife, Mom to beautiful DD (10/14/09), Copywriter, occasionally tearing my hair out but usually pretty happy about it all
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#14 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 12:43 PM
 
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What's wrong with praise? I think if it's delivered sincerely and specifically, it's a wonderful thing. I was listening to an interview with Po Bronson (Nurtureshock), and he was talking about how he talks to his 5 year old. How, when they're reading, if he just says "good job" and "what a great reader you are," his daughter continually looks to him, not the book. However, if the praise was specific (good job scanning the words with your finger, you sounded out that word well), his daughter was both pleased and remained focussed on the task. She also received some good, real feedback about her skill set.

Po Bronson aside, it just makes sense to me to give positive feedback in a meaningful way. I think "good job" gets a bad rap because of its generic aspect, and the fact that a whole generation of parents said it for *everything,* regardless of whether it really was a good job or not. It may not teach your child anything (except to look for your praise and/or an inflated sense of self worth); but a "thank you for remembering to feed the dog -- fantastic!" is a different story altogether.
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#15 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 01:49 PM
 
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We use "well done"..along with a combination of other phrases mostly " I think that's great you did that" or "That's awesome" or any other combos.

I think ANYTHING done too excess can have an almost opposite effect. Additionally I beieve praise is a wonderful tool for children to feel validated and important in their endeavors. But I mix it up with things like "I knew you could do it!" and " I believe in you" I follow up with having my kiddos talk to me sometimes about how hard something was or I'll add " wow, it looks like you really took your time on this" etc

Just a lil' 2cents from our family.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou
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#16 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 02:25 PM
 
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I'll one up you and say we use "Good girl!" a lot. Along with clapping and insanely big smiles. DD is 11 months and only understands rudimentary words, so if I said "wow, you placed all the circles into the right shape on your toy!" she'd probably understand "wow--blahblahblahblahblahblahblah!".

However, with my friends' kids, who walk and talk, I usually say things like "you coloured inside the lines? you're really good at drawing" or some such thing, because I know they can understand that. We use more and more words with DD, so I suspect our responses will change over time.
We used good girl more too when kiddo was younger. Also with the clapping and big smiles - and often hugs. Now that she is older and understands more, we use it less. I agree... if we said a whole long sentence on what exactly was special or well done etc, babies and young toddlers are just going to get confused or distracted. Sometimes I found it was warranted to say more, but often, it wasn't just easier to say less, but less FELT LIKE MORE with her. it is definitely HOW you say it more than WHAT you say and it is also important to decide how to react based on the individual child. I don't think it is damaging to say good job to a kid who doesn't need a long specific sentence or three on what it is that was impressive.
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#17 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 02:32 PM
 
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Just for the sake of conversation, here's an article about why to avoid praise like "good job."

http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm
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#18 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 04:32 PM
 
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I don't mean to thread-jack or anything--and I'm bringing this up out of curiosity and not critique--but sometimes when I read stuff on MDC I feel a little overwhelmed by a lot of "rules" (or maybe I should call them "do's and don'ts").

I've always felt praise was positive and encouraging. My parents always told us they were proud of our achievements, and it made us feel loved and special--way more special that the poor kids whose parents never turned up for school plays or parents' night. Sure, maybe I'll rephrase that when DD is older to "great job, you should be very proud of yourself", but I must say I look back on my childhood and see my parents' praise as a testament to their involvement in our lives.

I agree that empty praise is hurtful, because kids know when a parent is really paying attention or not, but pointing out when a child does something good is, at least to me, a good thing.

Anyway, this crossed my mind so I thought I'd share. It's very interesting to see everyone's perspective!

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#19 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 05:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Annie Mac View Post
...when they're reading, if he just says "good job" and "what a great reader you are," his daughter continually looks to him, not the book. However, if the praise was specific (good job scanning the words with your finger, you sounded out that word well), his daughter was both pleased and remained focussed on the task. She also received some good, real feedback about her skill set.

Po Bronson aside, it just makes sense to me to give positive feedback in a meaningful way...
Okay, I have to confess I have no clue who Po Bronson is, but THIS is why I was thinking it might be not such a good thing. Like another PP said, I have seen lots of posts here on MDC that basically say it's NOT good to say, "Good job" or "Good girl/boy" and that, combined with the fact that he is so focused on feedback that he loses what he's doing made it seem like the "wrong" thing to do. I will definitely try more specific feedback and see if it helps keep him on task better.
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#20 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 07:35 PM
 
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Just for the sake of conversation, here's an article about why to avoid praise like "good job."

http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm
That article sure makes a lot of assumptions about those who use 'good job!' or something similar. I find it pretty extreme. As a child who often did not get praise... it most definitely did NOT make me try harder for my own sake and enjoy what I do more. Far from it, I was like the children in this article who received a lot of praise. I often asked if something was good and I still struggle with that. Other than appropriate behavior... I was never told anything I did was good. I wasn't told anything was BAD... but there was no real encouragement.

Again, I really think it comes down the the specific child, the moment in question, tone of voice, and body language. A 'good job!' when a child gets their shoes on for the first time and is already proud on their own is going to be better than a parent who just simply says 'you put your shoes on.' of course the child put their shoes on... they already know that. Stating the fact doesn't share their pride. Alternatively, a child who gets a distracted 'good job' when they get their shoes on the for the first time isn't going to feel as good as a child who gets a 'you put your shoes on!!' with obvious excitement and pleasure. Its no longer just stating a fact... its making it clear that you are excited they accomplished what they were trying to accomplish. Moreover, saying nothing in that situation is going to sting a heck of a lot worse than a simple 'good job, I'm proud of you.' Sure, you could ask 'wow! what was the hardest part for you?' but not all kids are going to want to describe in depth the journey it took to get from shoes off to shoes fully on and tied. Some are just going to be proud they did it and just want whomever is around to be proud too.

I still don't believe all praise is inherently evil. I have a hard time believing some praise makes a child do things ONLY to get praise. I have a hard time believing a child who gets NO praise is always going to feel happy about that because they get something 'better.'

In fact, the only thing I really liked about the article was the line about how we need to consider our motives for what we say. Its unfair to assume all good jobs have a motive that takes control away from a child however.
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#21 of 47 Old 09-16-2010, 09:48 PM
 
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Here's an article that, Imo, does a good job (hehe) explaining why "evaluative praise" may not be good, and why "descriptive praise" is better. Fwiw, it seems to me that people who say they don't praise DO use what the article is calling "descriptive praise." It seems like a matter of semantics.

It also talks about how to use descriptive praise, so you'll probably get some good ideas for alternatives. I try to focus on how ds's actions affect others, where appropriate. In situations where that doesn't apply, like if he climbs up a big ladder on the playground, I might say something like "Wow! Check you out!" with a big smile, then listen to him tell me excitedly how/why/etc he did it.

Praise That Builds a Child's Self-Esteem
Quote:
Some praise creates dependency upon the approval of others. The evaluative praise, “You are a very generous person,” makes the child dependent on the judgment of the praiser. But the descriptive praise, “When you saw that Elliot forgot his sandwich, you gave him part of yours” gives a child a sense of her own abilities and accomplishments.
(snip)
Descriptive praise lets a child evaluate herself.
(snip)
Ask yourself, does my praise make my children more dependent upon me and my approval, or do my words help them see their strengths and give them a clearer picture of their abilities and accomplishments? The goal is to let your children feel in touch with their own powers and to be able to praise themselves. The person your child needs to please is him or herself.

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#22 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 08:51 AM
 
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That's why I said I think of the word "praise" as "appraisal", because that's really what the point is when people talk about praise being a problem. It's appraising, or evaluating. Not just saying nice things.
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#23 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 10:01 AM
 
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Here's an article that, Imo, does a good job (hehe) explaining why "evaluative praise" may not be good, and why "descriptive praise" is better. Fwiw, it seems to me that people who say they don't praise DO use what the article is calling "descriptive praise." It seems like a matter of semantics.
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That's why I said I think of the word "praise" as "appraisal", because that's really what the point is when people talk about praise being a problem. It's appraising, or evaluating. Not just saying nice things.
It's also why I think encouraging self-evaluation is important. DS is learning to drive right now. It's important that I give him feedback on what he's doing - right and wrong. So he gets positive feedback - praise - and some negative too (I prefer to call it "suggestions for improvement", lol!) However, ultimately, it's far more important that he be able to judge for himself how he is doing, since I'm not always going to be sitting beside him when he's at the steering wheel.

While he's driving, I try to keep comments to a minimum and focused on a little advice for handling situations. If he does something nicely, I'll say something like "You navigated that construction zone really well", because I think some positive praise is helpful to a new, slightly nervous driver. When we're done, before we exit the car I always ask him to tell me about something he performed well and something he needs to improve. I'll let him know what I think about those things. And then finally I give him my own appraisal of one thing he did well and one area he needs to work on.

I think we would both find the whole process frustrating and joyless if I didn't ever praise him. When I'm at work, I like hearing "good job" once in a while too .
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#24 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 10:09 AM
 
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I don't personally think external evaluation encourages internal self-evaluation. I think it just encourages trying to live up to the expectations of others.
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#25 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 10:19 AM
 
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"Good job", "Way to go", "That was impressive", "Wow, you are learning how to ***", "I liked how you did ****", "Fantastic!", etc...

I praise.
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#26 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 10:50 AM
 
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My son has been praised with "good job". That isn't the only way we let him know we think he did something fantastic, but it is used. Now when I do something that impresses him he will show his appreciation with telling me I have done a good job. I don't get the feeling he is saying a meaningless phrase to me. He seriously thinks what I just did is cool and is letting me know. I don't see much difference between saying "good job buddy!" or being specific. If he is playing a video game and defeats a really hard boss, couldn't I just as easily throw out a meaningless specific obsevation, as a very interested and engaged "good job buddy!"? And he doesn't play his video games to hear mama and daddy praise him, he plays because he enjoys them. I think there is a much bigger picture here in how we parent our kids and IMHO, avoiding saying "good job" is really small picture.

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#27 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 08:31 PM
 
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That's why I said I think of the word "praise" as "appraisal", because that's really what the point is when people talk about praise being a problem. It's appraising, or evaluating. Not just saying nice things.
Ita. I also should say that I love the explanation that "praise" = appraisal. That's a good way to think about it.

I do differentiate between evaluative praise that I would say to other adults and praise that I wouldn't. For example, I would have no problem saying "Nice throw!" to an adult, so I would say it to dc. Or even telling dp that I really like his new song, so I would be ok saying something similar to ds's, perhaps about their art or a song they made up.
I'm not sure exactly what makes it different, though.

Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)
 

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#28 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 08:54 PM
 
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It's funny every time this comes up I think it is sooooooooo silly. I say good job, I also say, that was a great painting, use of color, depending on the accomplishment......People tend to over-analyze this IMO, let your kid know they did something great-what's the problem in that, I just think it's another way for people to sell books and make parents feel like they are doing something wrong.

I want to be told I did a good job too, not how I am screwing my kid up because I don't say every little thing right, geez. I guess this is one of those AP things I find incredibly nit-picky.

Me Wife to T (14 years)Mama to Princess(4) and Monster Boy(my 1 year old ):
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#29 of 47 Old 09-17-2010, 09:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Norasmomma View Post
I just think it's another way for people to sell books and make parents feel like they are doing something wrong.

....

I guess this is one of those AP things I find incredibly nit-picky.
I agree 100%. I posted a page back that I feel like I can't keep up with all the "rules" of AP as discussed on MDC anymore. I mean, there seem to be just so many...

That said, I also don't think AP is "supposed" to be about these do's and don'ts. I thought it was just supposed to be about being a tuned-in parent, no matter what that means to you as an individual parent. Dr. Sears describes it very openly and inclusively, yet I feel at times here like it's some exclusive club that's almost impossible to join.

I don't mean to point fingers at anyone or any particular topic--it's just a general feeling I have from time to time. Mostly I feel it's a wonderful community, though, and I'm grateful to be part of it.

Woman, Wife, Mom to beautiful DD (10/14/09), Copywriter, occasionally tearing my hair out but usually pretty happy about it all
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#30 of 47 Old 09-18-2010, 12:21 AM
 
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love this thread. thanks to the op and to those who responded. my husband and i just enjoyed a "article club" where we focused on the ny mag article and on the alfie kohn one. we had an interesting discussion over it. thanks again!

hoping for a !
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