What's wrong with praise? - Mothering Forums

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Old 08-21-2013, 05:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm on an Alfie Kohn kick lately, so I'd like to talk about praise a bit. As in, why we shouldn't praise our kids! This always makes parents new to the idea do a double take, but please read a few things and then really think about it, and maybe we can get a discussion going.

Here's kind of an introductory article called Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job"
http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm

And then here's an article where he clarifies that he doesn't mean to praise less, or to use more meaningful praise than "good job", or to praise effort rather than ability, or that the reason he doesn't like praise is because it makes kids get spoiled. He simply thinks praise is bad. http://www.alfiekohn.org/f_news/fullnews.php?fn_id=5

And then here's an interview. http://life.familyeducation.com/discipline/parenting/36516.html

The overall idea is that praise is part of behaviorism, and that behaviorism in general is manipulative and hurtful to kids. So this would include punishment, rewards, sticker charts, etc. He feels that praising kids teaches kids that they're valuable only when they're doing what we want, and that it has some bad long-term consequences (talked about in the articles.)

So, what do you think? Do you praise? Do you try not to?
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Old 08-22-2013, 09:03 AM
 
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I really shouldn't take a lot of time with this this morning.

 

That said, I think that Kohn has a lot of good points for what is a complex and emotionally-charged concept. Definitely more to it than "praise = bad" and "behaviorism = bad." (I hate behaviorism, for the record. It feels manipulative, inauthentic, and I believe that it creates opposition rather than connection in relationships, in my not-so-humble, broad-brush opinion.) 

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Old 08-22-2013, 09:30 AM
 
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I think it is like everything else in the world, everything in moderation. Use common sense. Personally I hate the phrase "good job", it grates on me like nails on the chalkboard. Luckily I don't hear it much. 

 

Just this afternoon I said to 8yo DS after he finished his math, "oh, you even have 4 minutes left. You are much better than you were last year. You concentrate much better." Is it praise? Yes. I think it was totally appropriate to the time and place. I wanted him to see that I can see he is improving, and for him to see it himself. He is very hard on himself, and that comes internally, so I don't think concrete praise harms him, and is in fact necessary. OTOH 6yo DD knows how clever and charming she is and that she rules the universe, so if she is fishing for praise she is definitely not getting any!

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Old 08-22-2013, 04:42 PM
 
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Hm. So Alfie Kohn won't mind if I don't praise him, right? smile.gif

 

Personally, I do express appreciation when I think it's warranted. I think meaningful feedback is important and helpful. I'll often include positive messages when I give that feedback. If some people think that's manipulative, I guess I'm okay with that.  

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Old 08-22-2013, 05:02 PM
 
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If I get acknowledgments for a hard earned accomplishment--the praise for bringing in a project before the deadline, a bonus in my paycheck, a raise because of outstanding performance--why would I withhold the parent equivalent from my children?  On the other hand, I don't praise for breathing or age appropriate milestone.  Unless it was a very big milestone for that particular child.  My dd that has a very hard time speaking to anyone outside of the family (OCD, social anxiety, and depression), in 9th grade, ran and won 9th grade president.  At the end of the year, she had to stand in front of the entire school and give a speech at graduation.  She white knuckled the podium, never looked up from her written speech, her face was as white as the paper her speech was written on but she did it.  Darn right I praised her.
 


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Old 08-22-2013, 05:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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He says in the interview that he is not opposed to positive feedback or encouragement, but to praise used as a reward. Which is an obvious question - what is the difference between positive feedback and praise? I think, based on what he says, it's the motivation behind saying it - are you trying to simply acknowledge that it was a hard thing for her and she handled it, or are you trying to manipulate her into behaving the way you want her to? The second one is more about stuff you want to get them to do again, like "Good cleaning!" or "I really like how you made your bed this morning without me asking! Good job!"

Although he also talks a lot about how it isn't just about intent but also how a child reacts to it - whether they take it as a reward and feel like they have to repeat the behavior to receive the reward again.
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Old 08-22-2013, 07:08 PM
 
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I generally speak to children the same as I speak to adults. And that is the way I want to be spoken to. "Good job!" in a high-pitched, overly enthusiastic voice would sound condescending coming from my boss when I turn in my paperwork early. "Thanks", on the other hand, calmly and appropriately expresses her appreciation. I give my kids the same respect. I don't expect my boss to praise me for showing up for work on time every day. My kids don't expect to be praised for reading or coloring or whatever. I can express my interest by talking about what they read or colored.


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Old 08-23-2013, 08:26 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

I generally speak to children the same as I speak to adults. And that is the way I want to be spoken to. "Good job!" in a high-pitched, overly enthusiastic voice would sound condescending coming from my boss when I turn in my paperwork early. "Thanks", on the other hand, calmly and appropriately expresses her appreciation. I give my kids the same respect. I don't expect my boss to praise me for showing up for work on time every day. My kids don't expect to be praised for reading or coloring or whatever. I can express my interest by talking about what they read or colored.


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Old 08-23-2013, 11:53 AM
 
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I try not to praise my kids generally, but encourage them specifically from time to time. Then they also recognize when they did a good thing. Like this morning, my 5 yo let the dog outside and collected chicken eggs without being asked after he woke up. I thanked him for it when he came in and he said, "Yeah, and you didn't even have to ask me!" with a big grin on his face, and then he gave me a bear hug. I take care of a little girl periodically who is always asking to be praised. "How do you like my picture, isn't my necklace pretty? What do you think of my new outfit?, etc" and I usually just answer, "Do you like it? That's all that matters, then," and then I just get a sour look in response. People also always tell me my kids are cute, and while I secretly agree, I just quietly/politely try to tell them thank you and move on without my kids hearing about it. I don't want them to start performing for everyone so they can hear "he's so cute" all of the time or start feeling like they are entitled to everything in the world. I think teaching intrinsic self-worth is really important. Kids should be proud of themselves for themselves, when no one else is watching. Especially since I struggled with it for a long time myself. If I didn't have someone praising my abilities and accomplishments, I felt worthless. And being a SAHM, I don't expect my husband to come home from work and tell me everyday, "The house isn't burned down, the kids are still alive! You're doing a great job!" But if I deserve accolades for something out of the ordinary, ("That was a really good dinner tonight.") they are always appreciated and go a long way into me trying even harder. And that usually comes from my 5 yo more than anyone else.

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Old 08-23-2013, 03:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

I generally speak to children the same as I speak to adults. And that is the way I want to be spoken to. "Good job!" in a high-pitched, overly enthusiastic voice would sound condescending coming from my boss when I turn in my paperwork early. "Thanks", on the other hand, calmly and appropriately expresses her appreciation. I give my kids the same respect. I don't expect my boss to praise me for showing up for work on time every day. My kids don't expect to be praised for reading or coloring or whatever. I can express my interest by talking about what they read or colored.

 

 

This is very much in line with my thoughts on the matter.

 

I have a child who is an expert at something. I don't say that because I am his mom. Adults who are professionals at doing this want to work with him. There is the raw talent there for sure, but this kid is so good because he has spent hours a day for a couple of years (on his own, I've never ever told him to do this, and in fact I was fairly unaware that he was doing it at first) working at it.

 

I do not give generic "praise," and I do not only mention the parts that he does well. I give detailed descriptions of what worked, point out a couple areas for improvement, commiserate when his peers don't hold up their end on group projects, and mention over and over how much work he has done to get to be so freaking good at what he does. I ask him what he thinks, how it felt to do it, all that good stuff too. To me this feels genuine, sincere, and I know that when people take the time to discuss details and solicit my opinion that I feel that they've taken me and my work seriously.

 

I also say that I appreciate things that they do, and that I feel frustrated/angry/whatever when I have those feelings. My mom told me I should say "good girl/boy, bad girl/boy," but I don't like that and never did it when they were little, let alone now that they are teens.

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Old 08-24-2013, 01:24 AM
 
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I praise. winky.gif

 

And not just my kids -- I work in school so I get to tell lots of kids when I see them doing something awesome. orngbiggrin.gif

 

I've read the Kohn stuff and I tried it for awhile, but it felt very cold and unnatural to me. So I kept the part that worked for me -- being genuine and specific, and I let myself honestly and authentically tell kids the amazing things that I see in them.

 

I do similar things for adults. Honestly, most people like to hear good things about themselves, especially when we really mean them. It's not about trying to manipulate people, but rather, being kind and affirming.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 08-24-2013, 09:03 AM
 
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Here's another perspective:  I work in a Montessori classroom in a public elementary school.  Montessori is all about preparing the environment and allowing the students to learn by exploring.  We are careful to give feedback, specific to the situation, never general praise or criticism.  Thus, "I see you completed the entire page of math problems with no mistakes.  You must be feeling proud.  You really focused and did a great job."  Maybe followed by a high five.  "Next time we line up for lunch, please keep your hands to yourself and stay in alphabetical order.  It helps the cafeteria lady if we're in order and not playing around."  

 

I praised my own children lots, and still do, but always specific and genuine.  Empty praise would make them feel they didn't do well and I was trying to console them as their mama.  Learning is its own reward, but parents also need to give a little more love and support, and praise, than the rest of the world.  I expect the parents of our students give them extra praise when they see those perfectly done math problems.

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Old 08-24-2013, 10:37 AM
 
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I grew up constantly feeling like I couldn't do anything right, like every single thing I did was wrong. So yes, I praise my daughter. I don't think that I do it overly much, or when it is not needed, but she certainly needs to know when she did a good job, or something. I also tell her when she does something wrong or that she shouldn't and help her understand why those are things we don't do.

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Old 08-24-2013, 11:46 AM
 
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I do similar things for adults. Honestly, most people like to hear good things about themselves, especially when we really mean them. It's not about trying to manipulate people, but rather, being kind and affirming.

Funny - I praise and compliment anyone, often strangers. "Your blouse is beautiful" to a clerk, or "That looks really healthy" to a fellow shopper with a basket of veggies. I sincerely thank volunteers at the library, the bus driver, anyone I appreciate their effort. I love watching people's faces light up when they know they are noticed. And of course my kids too.  It is just the constant praise for normal actions and behaviors that grates. Just like true natural consequences (if you leave your bike out, it will get stolen or rusty), I think doing good has intrinsic value. When I knit a cool pair of socks, I love someone to notice! But the real value is to me - my feeling of accomplishment and creativity. I think it is the same for my kids. If my son cleans his room, I will notice and comment positively. But the real payoff is pride that he finished a big project, he gets to live in a clean room (for a short whilewinky.gif), and can perhaps find clean socks. It seems to me that focus will serve him better in life than needing others to validate his effort or accomplishments.


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Old 08-24-2013, 01:10 PM
 
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Subbing - no time to read all the lovely links.

I'm trying to move away from praise with my 2.5 year old and am working on learning alternate ways. I do say things like "thank you for listening" or "that's such a big help to me, thanks". I have used "good job" but I don't like it; it doesn't feel good. My mom uses it every five seconds though :-/ It REALLY grates on my nerves now
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Old 08-25-2013, 06:13 AM
 
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Here's another article: http://www.alfiekohn.org/f_news/fullnews.php?fn_id=5 where Kohn clarifies what he meant by five reasons to stop saying good job.

I am quoting my favourite parts (bolding mine):

 

"

1.  It’s not an argument for praising less frequently.  The problem isn’t with how often it’s done but with the nature of a verbal reward -- how it’s intended and especially how it’s construed.

2.  It’s not an argument for offering more meaningful praise -- as distinguished from the “empty” kind.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Yes, some teachers and parents reflexively hand out the equivalent of a doggie biscuit every few minutes, the result being that kids habituate to it and it has no impact.  If so, good!  It may be a waste of breath, but at least it’s not doing too much damage.  The kind of praise that’s rationed and carefully timed for maximum impact is more manipulative and more harmful.

3. It’s not an argument for praising people’s effort rather than their ability.  That distinction, which has attracted considerable attention over the last few years, is derived from the work of Carol Dweck.  I have been greatly impressed and influenced by Dweck’s broader argument, which spells out the negative effects of leading people to attribute success (or failure) to their intelligence (or its absence).  Intelligence, like other abilities, is often regarded as innate and fixed:  You either got it, or you ain’t.

...

4.  Most of all, this is not an argument that praise is objectionable because we’re spoiling our kids, overcelebrating their accomplishments and convincing them that they’re more talented than they really are.  If you have read any article critical of praise in the last two decades, it has probably proceeded from this premise, which represents a form of social conservatism widely shared even by political liberals.  Here, praise is seen as just one more symptom of a culture of overindulgence, right alongside grade inflation, helicopter parenting, excessive focus on self-esteem, and the practice of handing out trophies to all the participants.

Microsoft Word lacks a font sufficiently bold to emphasize how starkly this sensibility -- and this reason for opposing praise -- differs from my own.  In fact, I’m so troubled by the values underlying this critique and its mistaken empirical assumptions (about child development, learning, and the psychology of motivation) that I may write a book on the subject.  You can imagine my reaction, then, when people who think along these lines invoke something I’ve written about praise to help make their case.

Some of these people wax indignant that children are praised -- and consequently come to expect praise -- for doing things that they ought to do just because they’ve been told to do them.  This old-school argument for unquestioning (and unrewarded) obedience contrasts sharply with my claim that praise is more likely to function as a tool for imposing our will and eliciting compliance.  Like much of what is called “overparenting,” praise doesn’t signify permissiveness or excessive encouragement; to the contrary, it is an exercise in (sugar-coated) control.  It is an extension of the old-school model of families, schools, and workplaces -- yet, remarkably, most of the criticisms of praise you’re likely to read assume that it’s a departure from the old school, and that that’s a bad thing.

...

The problem isn’t that kids expect praise for everything they do.  The problem is with our need for control, our penchant for placing conditions on our love, and our continued reliance on the long-discredited premises of behaviorism.

"
 


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Old 08-25-2013, 06:17 AM
 
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I praise and I say good job to my kids. I think that as long as I am sincere, and don't praise with the intent of manipulating them into "being good", praise is well received.


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Old 08-25-2013, 11:36 AM
 
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When I read Punished by Rewards and Unconditional Parenting, they made a lot of sense to me.  I generally try to stay away from praise as a reward for good behavior.  But here are some things I do that I think Alfie Kohn would be fine with:

 

- I thank my kids when they do something helpful, just as I would thank anyone else.

 

- When my kids praise themselves for doing something they think is cool, I enthusiastically agree.

 

- I tell my kids how much I love them and how awesome I think they are - not in response to some particular bit of good behavior, but any time at all (maybe even when they're acting bad.)

 

- When one of my kids is learning something new, I let them know when they're getting it right.  ("Yes, just like that.  That's great!)  I also offer encouragement and reassurance that the kid's efforts are good enough.  ("You're doing great for your first time.")

 

- I point out things my kids have done well or are good at to encourage them to have a good opinion of themselves.  For instance, I mentioned to my daughter after a soccer game that I had noticed several times when she made a good pass that led to her team getting a goal.  I tell my son that he's clever at thinking about math, and I've told him how what he's learning in math compares to what most kids his age are learning.  I try not to present it as "Here's something great that makes me proud of you" but just "Here's some honest information that will help you form a realistic opinion about yourself and your abilities."  (Both my kids have a tendency to downplay their strengths and assume other people are generally better at things than they are.)

 

Alfie Kohn's idea is that if you want to encourage your child to share her toys or work hard in school you should do it by explaining the real reasons why those things are good.  "It won't be much fun for Emily if she has to watch you play with the toy without ever having a turn herself."  "If you try your hardest in school you'll end up learning more and you'll develop habits that will help you all your life."  Not "Good girls share their toys/get good grades and you have to be a good girl if you want me to love you."  (Not that most people would state it quite as blatantly as that, but that is the kind of message kids can end up getting.)  If your child shares nicely or gets a good grade, you don't want to talk about how happy that made you, because then you're encouraging her to think about how her behavior affects your feelings toward her, when she should be thinking about how sharing makes her friends happier or how working hard in school will help her get what she wants in life.  It can give her the wrong type of motivation.

 

Praise also can give kids a feeling of constantly being judged.  When you tell your kid he's done a "good job" at something, you're basically giving him the message that you've been watching him and judging how good a job he's doing.  Do you want him to think that you're always judging how well he does at coloring or swinging on the money bars?  If my kid ever gets a goal in a soccer game, I'm definitely not going to make a big deal out of it unless she does first.  Saying, "Wow, your first goal - I'm so proud of you!" could easily make her think that I must have been a lot less proud during all the games when she never got a goal and that I'll be disappointed if she doesn't get one in the next game.

 

So in general you don't want to make it all about you and what makes you happy.  But it's not like your kids aren't going to be aware that certain things do make you happy or unhappy.  You want them to be aware - sometimes, anyway.  If it pleases me to see my kids score a goal or disappoints me when they don't, I'd rather they didn't know about that.  But they need to understand that I'm going to be upset if they insult me, or hurt each other, or yell "No!" and run away when I ask them to brush their teeth.  And if they understand that, then they'll also realize that it makes me happy when they act kindly toward me and each other or cooperate with what I ask them to do.  I'm not sure how much difference it makes whether or not I praise my kids for those things they already know please me.  I think maybe what's most important is try to ensure that they don't get praise and love only when they do what I want.  I'd like them to feel that I love them all the time, even when they get into a bad mood and act annoying.  It's tricky though, because it's hard to act loving when you're annoyed.

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Old 08-25-2013, 04:28 PM
 
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Old 08-25-2013, 05:13 PM
 
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I like Dr. Dobson's reply here:

http://www.drjamesdobson.org/Broadcasts/my-family-talk-dr-james-dobson-Broadcast?i=f218c9ed-e9b2-4dbe-afbe-aa596b085cbc

 

and in this one here:

http://drjamesdobson.org/Solid-Answers/Answers?a=48b6d2ab-e80f-4d38-80f3-edd62b5ca595

 

Our entire society is established on a system of rewards. 

 

Hmm.  Dr. Dobson claims to offer "sound biblical advice" and yet this seems about as far from biblical as you can get:
 

Quote:

The main reason for the overwhelming success of capitalism is that hard work and personal discipline are rewarded materially. The great weakness of socialism is the absence of reinforcement; why should a person struggle to achieve if there is nothing special to be gained? This system is a destroyer of motivation, yet some parents seem to feel it is the only way to approach children. They expect little Marvin to carry responsibility simply because it is noble for him to do so. They want him to work and learn and sweat for the sheer joy of personal accomplishment. He isn't going to buy it!

 

So material personal gain is the only reasonable source of motivation?  Is that what the Bible teaches?

 

Anyway, he's dead wrong when he says our entire society is established on a system of rewards.  Sure, rewards are common.  But most of our actions are neither rewarded nor punished, at least not in any deliberate way by another person.  No one rewards me for taking out the trash, doing the grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, or reading to my kids.  No one punishes me for posting here instead of working, or neglecting the garden, or forgetting to make the kids brush their teeth.  Often, people can do very good things or very bad things with no reward or punishment.  They may even be rewarded for bad actions or punished for trying to do good.  People drive drunk without getting caught.  People abuse their kids without getting caught.  People work hard at their jobs and get fired unjustly.  People act kindly toward others and are taken advantage of by psychopaths.  Psychopaths take advantage of others and grow rich.  If you grow up expecting rewards for every good thing you do, you're going to be sorely disappointed. 

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Old 08-25-2013, 09:43 PM
 
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The problem isn’t that kids expect praise for everything they do.  The problem is with our need for control, our penchant for placing conditions on our love, and our continued reliance on the long-discredited premises of behaviorism.
 

 

1. Letting some one know when they have done something well or in a way that gives you joy isn't necessarily controlling or placing conditions on love. That is a huge leap, and isn't proven.

 

2. Sometimes we do need to control kids, and to teach them to control themselves. And part of that is telling them when they are doing the right things, which is praise.

 

It's lovely to think that if we just gentle talk to kids and explain why certain behaviors are acceptable and other aren't, they will get it and comply to an extent that society can live with, and for some kids, its true. However, other kids need a lot more than that.  If your kid went to school with a kid who needed a lot more than that to really get they it isn't OK to punch your kid in the stomach whenever the teacher isn't looking, would you really still be against praise and behaviorism, or would your beliefs go in the trash if it meant that your child was safe from being a punching bag?

 

Assume in your answer that just kicking the kid out isn't an option -- that you have to figure out a way to help the child learn socially appropriate behavior, because that is real life. The kid needs to be controlled. We, as a society, don't get to throw the kids away who aren't as easily socialized as Kohn would prefer they be. We have to teach them better, and hopefully do it before they seriously hurt another person.

 

Behaviorism isn't discredited, and it is widely used to with children who have proven resistant to softer approaches, such as children with certain types of special needs or behavior problems. It wasn't the top choice for me with my kids, but it has a place. Kohn looked at a lot of research, but he has never spent much time around children. If he had, he would realize that part of the reason adults have an obligation to control children is to keep them from hurting each other, or growing into the kids of adults who have to be kept locked up.


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Old 08-26-2013, 12:35 PM
 
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I think he has some reasonable points, and I could see myself integrating parts of his idea into my parenting philosophy. However, I think I fundamentally disagree with his philosophy that parents shouldn't be attempting to control their children. I also think there's a difference between control and manipulating. I will love my children no matter what, but I'm certainly not going to let them think that whatever choices they make in their lives are A-OK.

 

I think, as the previous poster said, it is a very good idea to explain to your child why it's not okay to hit other children. But at the end of the day, it is far more important to me that my child actually refrain from hitting other children than that they understand why they should do so. Ideally, my children will understand why certain choices are okay and others are not, but I care a lot more that they do what's right than that they understand why it's right. (Although I care a lot about them understanding!) This is especially true considering how young my son is currently. I do explain things to him, but I recognize he doesn't have the capacity to understand much in the way of explanations yet. He can do more than he can understand.


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Old 08-27-2013, 06:36 PM
 
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I try not to praise my kids generally, but encourage them specifically from time to time. Then they also recognize when they did a good thing. Like this morning, my 5 yo let the dog outside and collected chicken eggs without being asked after he woke up. I thanked him for it when he came in and he said, "Yeah, and you didn't even have to ask me!" with a big grin on his face, and then he gave me a bear hug. I take care of a little girl periodically who is always asking to be praised. "How do you like my picture, isn't my necklace pretty? What do you think of my new outfit?, etc" and I usually just answer, "Do you like it? That's all that matters, then," and then I just get a sour look in response. People also always tell me my kids are cute, and while I secretly agree, I just quietly/politely try to tell them thank you and move on without my kids hearing about it. I don't want them to start performing for everyone so they can hear "he's so cute" all of the time or start feeling like they are entitled to everything in the world. I think teaching intrinsic self-worth is really important. Kids should be proud of themselves for themselves, when no one else is watching. Especially since I struggled with it for a long time myself. If I didn't have someone praising my abilities and accomplishments, I felt worthless. And being a SAHM, I don't expect my husband to come home from work and tell me everyday, "The house isn't burned down, the kids are still alive! You're doing a great job!" But if I deserve accolades for something out of the ordinary, ("That was a really good dinner tonight.") they are always appreciated and go a long way into me trying even harder. And that usually comes from my 5 yo more than anyone else.


My DD is like the little girl you take care of.  And let me tell you, it is HARD to avoid praise when you are being constantly, constantly barraged by questions of that ilk.  The circuitous answers you have to come up with start to sound just as canned as "good job," because there's a certain tone of voice that's hard to avoid.  I really struggle with this.  I like Kohn's ideas in theory, but in my day to day with my daughter, it really seems to create conflict and a feeling of unnatural parenting.  It's almost like I'm constantly chastising her or "disciplining" her away from asking those types of questions - which feels weird, because I generally try to avoid all-day disciplining of my daughter. 

 

The other thing I think about in the issue with intrinsic/extrinsic motivation - I was a very intrinsically motivated teenager and young adult.  I loved learning, loved school, was very self-driven, often convinced my teachers to let me abandon their curriculum in favor of some alternative project of my own design.... I explored lots of hobbies, international travel, etc.  I never ever considered the fact that I would one day have to earn money for performing some sort of task.  I STILL struggle with that idea.  When I think of a career, I still think about it in terms of, "Hmmm...what am I interested in doing?"  And then realize that I can't earn money that way, or that my ideas don't really match the reality of a workplace.  A salary, to me, is the ultimate extrinsic motivator - and a necessary one, at that.  Just musing, I guess. 

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Old 08-28-2013, 04:45 PM
 
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1. Letting some one know when they have done something well or in a way that gives you joy isn't necessarily controlling or placing conditions on love. That is a huge leap, and isn't proven.

 

2. Sometimes we do need to control kids, and to teach them to control themselves. And part of that is telling them when they are doing the right things, which is praise.

 

So you say 1. praising doesn't mean controlling, and 2. kids sometimes need to be controlled through praise. Which is which?


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Old 08-28-2013, 05:06 PM
 
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both are true.

 

  • Praise isn't inherently controlling. Sometimes, it's just a compliment. It's nice to give people compliments, even when those people are very short and under 18.
  • Sometimes kids need to be controlled. There are a lot of ways to do that, and praise is a gentle way to do so. Haven't you ever seen a child who is hurting others or risking personal harm? There is a HUGE assumption in Kohn's work that controlling children is bad, bad, bad, but I don't agree. I honestly don't think that anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes with children would agree if they really thought it through. It sounds great, but the bottom line is that we need to teach kids how to behave and some kids just have a harder time with that than others.

 

Real life is more complicated that Kohn simplified version of it.  I learned a great deal from him -- he has had a tremendous impact on me. But he doesn't get the whole deal. How could he? He doesn't work with kids, heck, he's most likely never spent 24/7 with his own kids except for a yearly vacation. He doesn't have all the answers.


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Old 08-28-2013, 05:33 PM
 
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you know i think in a way we all are saying the same thing.

 

what alfie and many of us are saying is - no empty praises.

 

i am glad i read alfie years ago because it brought that part to my attention. i dont call it praise (others might), i call it taking notice and/or encouraging. 

 

when dd does something special i cant help but make an observation and say how much i appreciate she did that. 

 

i mean even though it is the fireman's duty i still cant not express my gratitude for stopping the house fire and saving my family and pets. 

 

imho it is a way of saying hey i notice. 


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Old 08-28-2013, 06:01 PM
 
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you know i think in a way we all are saying the same thing.

 

what alfie and many of us are saying is - no empty praises.

 

Actually, I think Alfie is saying pretty much exactly the opposite of that.  Empty praise is fine (or at least not a huge problem.)  I assume by empty praise you mean, for example, a mom who says "Good job!" indiscriminately to pretty much everything her kid does.  If you praise all the time, that's just normal background noise and isn't very meaningful to your kid.  What's problematic is when you start picking out certain behaviors that you really want to encourage and praising them in order to encourage them.  Especially if you never say anything as nice as that to your kid when she isn't doing things that please you.  Your praise might be very sincere and heartfelt.  You might not even be consciously trying to manipulate your kid into repeating the behavior.  But Kohn would still say it was problematic.

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Old 09-03-2013, 11:26 AM
 
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I've been thinking about this thread for awhile, and I think I've figured out what bothers me about the idea that we use praise to "manipulate" our children. To me, that word implies that we are convincing them to do something that is contrary to their own interest, but that is in our interest as parents. I don't feel that I praise my child for doing things that benefit only me. Sure, it benefits me if he learns to pee in his potty instead of his diaper. But it benefits him, too, in a myriad of ways. I praise him for doing as I ask not just because it makes my life easier, but because it makes his life safer when he follows instructions that keep him from harm. Even things like cleaning up after himself (not something he does yet!) will benefit him in the long run, too. Now if I praised him for making me a sandwich and paying the bills, that might be manipulative. :wink

 

I think the articles also ignore the point that there are many ways to express love to your child (stealing from Gary Chapman here) - things like hugs, pats on the back, spending time with them, giving them gifts or surprises, and helping them when they need it. Our words should never be the sole indication to our children of our love for them, and none of these expressions of love should be limited to only those times when we are pleased with a specific action of theirs. But I don't see anything wrong with using any or all of these things to show our appreciation, respect, or delight at their behavior.


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Old 09-03-2013, 11:56 AM
 
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I was raised in a home where I was criticised about everything. I mean everything... So anytime I needed to do anything, I knew it would be wrong so I constantly was looking for validation of whatever it was that I did. "Did I do a good job coloring my picture? Do you like how i folded the towels? Do my clothes match?" etc. Even as an adult I require a bit of a pat on the back to keep me going or I just assume that whatever I'm doing is wrong or unappreciated. Instead of assuming that people like me until proven otherwise, I assume the opposite. It's exhausting! My family remains super critical, of me, my husband, how we parent, etc. I absolutely drew the line when my mother began to criticise my child (you're going to have to talk more, your hair needs to grow, are you using the potty yet?) and we are not in contact now.

The point of this rant is this. Darn right I'm going to say nice things to my child. When my toddler drags a chair to the kitchen sink to "help" do after dinner dishes I can't help but to tell her thank you, that shes a big help and to give her a smile and a smooch when we are done (after she helps me mop dishwater off the floor). When she paints a picture and holds it up proudly and says all done! I'm going to tell her I love it and can't wait for it to dry so we can hang it up! I do this not to control her but to let her know that I APPRECIATE her and that there is not a thing wrong with her. I treat my children as i would treat anyone whose relationship I value. I know how important it is to make sure my children feel joy in their accomplishments.

They are so young and they look to their parents as a measure of right and wrong, good and bad. I don't tell them they are "good" or "bad" because I don't want for them to think of themselves in those terms. Instead the comment is made about the behavior. As my toddler pulled out every dish from under the counter she was saying "I'm working so hard." I let it happen until all the dishes were out and said "Wow, that was a lot of work, now lets put the dishes back where they belong.". We did it together and when we were done I said "Good work!" and high fived!

As for myself, I always feel "not enough" and it stinks! I never would wish that on a child. They don't ask to be evaluated, but doesn't it feel good when you know you've done well?

I gave this thread a good deal of thought before responding and just can't see any harm in consciously praising children or telling them when they've done a "good job" or saying thank you when they've been helpful (or think they have).
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Old 09-03-2013, 01:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree that it must be better to give lots of praise than to give lots of criticism, but I think the anti-behaviorist argument would be that the praise is the other side of the same coin as criticism. Kids still look for validation from outside and still need regular validation if they learn to expect it.

Thanking a child who is helpful isn't the same thing as praise, either. Not praising doesn't mean never saying anything nice or never showing appreciation or joy in your children's accomplishments. It means not making value judgements on the things your kids do.

I was raised with both a lot of praise and a lot of criticism, and really both feel bad to me. They both make me feel insecure.

I didn't post this thread with the intention of telling parents what to do, but just to open up discussion and maybe share perspectives. I think using praise, and using it a lot, is the norm. I hear it often, and as a parent who really tries to avoid value judgements about what my kids do, it sounds unnatural to me. To my husband too. We were at the park and this dad and his son were playing catch, and his dad kept giving his son tons of praise. My husband asked me why the dad felt like he had to keep heaping on tons of praise about how well his son was catching and looking and watching and throwing, and said it sounded annoying to him. My daughter at one point said the dad must not think his son is good at throwing and catching if he feels like he has to talk about it so much. But that's my family, and it isn't something we're used to. I assume it doesn't sound or feel that way within families who do it.
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