UP question: the subtle difference between praise & encouragement - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 6 Old 04-02-2012, 04:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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! love.gif


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#2 of 6 Old 04-02-2012, 05:46 AM
 
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I think the biggest misunderstanding about UP is that anything positive said to a child is praise. I think a better way to think of it is to think of praise as an appraisal. If you are appraising what he does, saying he does it well, or is good at it, or that kind of thing, it's praise. But, "WOW! You did it!" or asking questions or talking about it and just giving attention is not praise, it's joy and happiness.

So I stay away from assessing my kids' value or the value of what they do, but I certainly express joy at their discoveries and work and play, and celebrate with them when they're happy with what they've done.
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#3 of 6 Old 04-02-2012, 06:14 AM
 
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I just ran across this short post on Pinterest this morning, maybe it will help:
http://childhood101.com/2012/04/encouragement-vs-praise/

I don't know anything about UP really, but I do tend to avoid praise. I know what it's like to have your worth determined by others, so I don't want that for DS, and I want him to find his own intrinsic motivation. That doesn't mean I never ever ever say, "Good job!" or "That looks great!" but it's pretty minimal and saved primarily for the situations where he actually is seeking my opinion, and I try to be more creative with it ("Interesting color choices!" or whatever) and more personal ("I like your cat drawing!" seems more beneficial than, "That cat drawing is awesome!" because the latter fails to reinforce that it's just MY opinion).

Usually when kids say, "Look at me!" they want attention. I don't think that attention needs to be, "Oh that is so amazing, you are the smartest kid ever!" but instead, "Cool, can you show me how it works?" or "Tell me more about it!" or "How did you do that?" Showing genuine interest, largely without judgement. We can still be authentic though, and when you are genuinely impressed or excited by what your kid has done, you don't necessarily need to hide it, but the child's feelings about his pursuits & accomplishments are more important than your own feelings about them, KWIM? I do think it's a fine balancing act but I don't think you can totally screw it up, because you are already conscious of the harm praise can do, so chances are you won't totally overuse it.

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#4 of 6 Old 04-04-2012, 04:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

I think the biggest misunderstanding about UP is that anything positive said to a child is praise. I think a better way to think of it is to think of praise as an appraisal.


This is very true! Especially the detractors of UP use this argument, saying parents who don't use praise are cruel. Certainly it would be cruel never to show any enthusiasm or positivity to a child, and I hope no parents out there trying to follow the UP path are doing that.

 

I like the analogy to appraisal. I do purposely try to avoid saying anything he does or anything about him is "good"...but that too is so deeply conditioned in us, that I find it hard to avoid 100%.

 

Thank you Crunchy Mama for the links, I have bookmarked both of them and next time someone wonders why we are avoiding praise I can refer to them.


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#5 of 6 Old 04-05-2012, 06:57 AM
 
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For me being specific, really listening, really looking, really responding is what it's about. I think what you said to your DS was specific and showed that you were really looking at and taking in what he'd done. That's not praise that's just being present with your child.  I get the whole non-praise thing and practice it, but I think the deeper problem with a heavy reliance on "Good Job!" or telling your child that every picture she draws is beautiful or whatever is that it's a phoned in response. You don't have to really look at or pay specific attention to what your child is showing you if all you are going to do is say "Good Job" etc. Asking a question or sharing a specific observation shows that you are really looking and allows your child to make their own judgement about what they are doing... and it sounds to me like that's what you did.

 

I would also caution against following any parenting idea to dogmatically. Trust yourself, trust your relationship with your child. Be present. Sounds like you are doing just fine.

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#6 of 6 Old 04-14-2012, 09:08 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaki View Post

For me being specific, really listening, really looking, really responding is what it's about. I think what you said to your DS was specific and showed that you were really looking at and taking in what he'd done. That's not praise that's just being present with your child.  I get the whole non-praise thing and practice it, but I think the deeper problem with a heavy reliance on "Good Job!" or telling your child that every picture she draws is beautiful or whatever is that it's a phoned in response. You don't have to really look at or pay specific attention to what your child is showing you if all you are going to do is say "Good Job" etc. Asking a question or sharing a specific observation shows that you are really looking and allows your child to make their own judgement about what they are doing... and it sounds to me like that's what you did.

 

I would also caution against following any parenting idea to dogmatically. Trust yourself, trust your relationship with your child. Be present. Sounds like you are doing just fine.

I liked this post, especially the part that is bolded.  I tend to follow my heart and if I am excited that my daughter stuck a fork in an egg carton because I find it funny and clever, then I would react like you did.  You did not base his self-worth on that.  You just found it fun and his excitement was yours.  That is responsive parenting.

 

I do like to use more helpful comments than "good job" and the other ones that are more clearly praise.  When my homeschooled daughter shouts "mom! 5 threes make 15!"  I smile (say Wow! or Yes! or something) and say "What made you think of that?" in an excited way.  OK, sounds rather dull in the telling, but I find it useful to help them continue their story and I find out a whole lot about what's going on in their heads.  I find it works for all kinds of situations, asked in slightly different ways.  (And hopefully not "phoned in"!)

 

I don't know.  I will never stop being excited about my kids.  It seems natural to me to let them know that what they did was clever, or funny or whatever if that is bubbling up out of me.  I'm not sure how much of that fits specifically into UP.  I mind what I say and do, but I follow my heart.  Above all, I'm going to be genuine.  If I end up praising sometimes, it is not empty praise and maybe I'll think of something better to say next time.  In the meantime, I will share in my kids' excitement and try not to overthink it too much.
 

 


Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
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