I need some advice on peacefully managing some philosophical differences at home. Recently my mother-in-law came to live with us because of her advanced Parkinson's disease. She interacts with DD periodically throughout the day and for the last month I've been struggling with extreme praise and emphasis on appearances. DD's grandmother makes a BIG deal over things that DD does and says "you are good at that" and "good job" several times an hour. DD in turn changes her actions to seek more praise and it is disrupting her normal behavior and making her much more self conscious. She has also randomly decided that she is NOT good at some things and gives up very quickly at tasks she would usually persist in overcoming minor frustration.
Prior to her grandmother living with us DD never heard "good job". We would talk about how she did something and how she felt. I would ask DD what she thought about it and talk about how hard she worked or make other observations about the process. She made up her own mind how she felt about it was awesome.
I've been talking to DD's grandmother about our philosophy and giving her alternative phrases that work for us and for whatever reason it isn't sticking. It could be the cognitive inability to learn new information from Parkinson's coupled with decades of lathering on the praise with children or she could just simply not give a damn. I have no idea. Today out of sheer madness I handed her a book called "Encouraging Words for Kids" by Kelly Bartlett. She looked at it for a few minutes but didn't say a word about it. I had mentioned the book before so it wasn't a shock.
I'm thinking DD's grandmother may be a lost cause on the topic so I'm thinking of turning my attention to DD in warding off the excessive praise. Please understand this is not an occasional "good job" slipping in there ... it is the regular response for pretty much everything.
Any advice on what to say to assist DD with these frequent judgements of her behavior? Our situation is so complicated I'm trying to figure out a way to immunize her against the influence her grandmother's opinion and judgements. I guess I'm looking for a phrase I can say when it occurs that DD will eventually catch on with. No one else in the house gets this sort of praise so it is difficult to teach a response here.
I'm totally stuck. Anyone?
Any advice or suggestion is greatly appreciated.
i think that's great that you have recognised that its going to be easier working with your dd.
the self concious bit though is kinda age appropriate whether they get the praise or not. gma might be highlighting a bit more but i am sure your dd would get there with or without gma's help.
as long as ur MIL is not a manipulator most kids get gparents rules are different. she will get one day that in gma's eyes she is the cat's miaow. and that is ok.
looking back in hindsight i would say this is not a hill to die on. since this is a complicated situation i would look at other things and let this one by.
The book thing was maybe a little harsh.
If I'd been having cool conversations with my kid about her feelings, I would be bummed about having that shut off by a well-meaning grandma, even if my sympathy for that well-meaning grandma was great. I might have a conversation after bedtime, or while the child was otherwise occupied, about how neat you think it is to get your daughter's opinion of her work, and ask if, next time DD does something praiseworthy - set the table, finish a puzzle, fight with a math problem - she can hang back and let you see if you can get that going. It would be graceful to work an apology for giving her the book in there. You were frustrated by a change in the way you were interacting with your daughter, and the loss of some conversations that are precious to you, but it would be a kindness to your MIL to assure her that you can see how much she loves your daughter, and that you value that.
And then let it go. "You're so good at folding napkins!" can be a way of saying "you're amazing and I love you." And what you're seeing with DD not wanting to do stuff she's not good at may well be developmental, and not the result of praise.
Thank you ladies for your feedback. As I have come back to comment and emphasize the maddening repetition of praise I realize now this is more of a cognitive issue with the grandmother and that the persistent/repetitive behavior (however well intended) is the real upset. I'm with you on the regular acceptance of grandparent passes and if it only happened occasionally ... I would totally leave it alone but we spend 6-8 hours a day together and the praise comes once about every 5 minutes when the grandmother is within earshot of DD or involved in activities. I am in a unique situation because I care for the grandmother and my home-schooled child and I just want to maintain DD's focus during the day. The praise is seriously endless and the grandmother might not be capable of stopping. I am still hoping to find some tips on pulling attention away from praise with some statements to my child.
How old is your DD? Could you explain to her gmas disability and memory problems in a way that helped her understand the comments better. With my 4 yr old I have had to do this because he has two autistic teen brothers and he gets very frustrated when they don't respond when he talks to them. Its hit and miss, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I finally told him his brothers brains work differently and that makes their ears not hear well sometimes. I taught him to touch their shoulders and try to look in their eyes and see then talk and see if that works. I have noticed he is less frustrated now. I was honestly worried he was going to think it was him and take it personally and it would affect his self-concept. I had to put the responsibility of the issue back on his brothers but tried to so in a respectful way. I wonder if you could come up with something similar that might help your DD understand why gma repeats herself so much. Maybe you could also help her understand her gmas disability in a way that made sense to her, and that when gma says "good job" she is saying "Wow! II really like watching you work so hard!" Which is really true, when you think about it.
Mom to DS(17) DS(15) DS(12) My gifted, quirky, wonderful teens!
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