The whole "praise" thing - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 12 Old 09-12-2013, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm still conflicted about praising or accidentally over praising kids. There's an interesting article in Psychology Today about the subject, I don't know if I agree with everything this author says, but it is a conversation starter. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/200909/parenting-dont-praise-your-children/comments#comment-554205

 

I do know one of my children thrives on appropriate praise, one doesn't care, and one hates it. The youngest, 13 years old (my little one, with Aspergers) hates being praised in any form. "Moo-ooommmmm! Okay!" It makes her uncomfortable and it doesn't give her the impetus to do anything at all. My middle one, she loves it. She's in Graduate School and has said she still wishes her professors would put stickers on her papers. She gets a  "good idea" or "excellent point!" on a paper and she's walking on air for days. In fact, she had a 504 Plan for ADD inattentive type, when she was a child and one of the accommodations were that the teacher had to offer at least some praise for her hard work. (She had a teacher in 4th grade who didn't believe in praise or stickers or anything, so we had to kind of insist on it for this child to do well and keep trying, she struggled in her grade school years, and needed different methods than my other children to learn properly.)

 

That being said, some people over do it. My mother fairly oozes forced praise and says, "OMG! THAT'S WONDERFUL!" for even the least effortless activities my kids offer. I've had to actually ask her to tone it down as even my middle child even tunes it out.

 

I was in the library once with my middle daughter, who was about 12 or so and and she dropped something and then picked it up. A mother of very young children looked at me motioning. I had no idea what she was motioning for. I shrugged. She looked me right in the eye and said, "Say 'GOOD JOB' to your daughter!" Seriously? She picked a piece of paper that she dropped off the floor. Not really what I would consider a "good job" behavior.

 

What are your thoughts?

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#2 of 12 Old 09-12-2013, 09:23 PM
 
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I'm a bit conflicted. It's just so easy to feel excited and share it with my kids. It almost feels forced and disingenuous to avoid praise. I feel like whatever comes naturally is a good choice- sharing my appreciation and enthusiasm for accomplishments, but only as it comes out. I don't feel like I personally "good job" every little thing. I never ever use "good girl/boy" as a phrase. I just honestly say what I feel about what's happening. I do make an effort to specify if there's a good opportunity, such as noticing certain details about an effort.
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#3 of 12 Old 09-13-2013, 04:12 PM
 
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I'm just honest about how I feel. If they do something impressive I tell them I'm impressed. If they did something they worked hard at I acknowledge that they did and they must be glad of it. If they did something I want them to do more of I say that's great keep it up.

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#4 of 12 Old 09-13-2013, 06:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Both of your interpretations sound good to me. Honesty will always give the best results, I think. IMO, forcing praise or holding it back isn't a good idea. My problem is when people do force it or are disingenuous with it, in an attempt to do.... I'm not really sure what. I know my mother didn't get much affection or encouragement and probably feels she needed to do the opposite to my kids than was done to her. Oddly she was very critical with me when I was a child, and maybe she's trying to make up for it. I'm not sure. But, she forces a lot of insincere praise with my children, probably in an attempt to make up for past problems?

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#5 of 12 Old 09-14-2013, 12:57 PM
 
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I like the honesty approach above.  I found the book "Unconditional Parenting" to have some good points.

 

You can say:

 

I like it (if you do)

This room looks a lot better (if it does)

Now we can see the floor (after a cleaning blitz of picking up toys and vacuuming)

I can see you put a lot of effort into it (if this is the case)

 

Or questions to the child:

 

How do you think you did?

Was that hard?

Do you like it?

What's your favorite part?

How do you think you did?

If child isn't satisfied, ask what they'd do differently... (this empowers the child - it might be he/she didn't like the result, which is fine, but then, what would they do differently

 

I will not praise my daughter for routine activities, preferring:  "Thanks", "I'm glad you did it", etc.  That can be for something as small as wiping up a spill, putting the dishes in the sink, holding the door open, putting toys away when asked.  This is also something that can be said quite sincerely.

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#6 of 12 Old 09-14-2013, 01:23 PM
 
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I agree with the other posters, that a straightforward approach feels right. I pretty much say how I'm feeling, or how their actions make me feel. Because all I can control is myself - I'm trying to encourage self-governance and not try to control them as I have done in the past! So I will say that I am really impressed when I am impressed. I also try to specifically mention the good character behind the good action/product (sorry if I'm not explaining this well, not feeling verbose today). Such as strength, perseverance, patience, kindness, etc. because that is ultimately what I am trying to help develop. So an example would be, in the case of the awesome birthday card my 5 yo daughter spent a good long time making for my husband this morning, 'I'm really impressed with that picture, you really took your time and put a lot of thought into it.'

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#7 of 12 Old 09-17-2013, 02:05 PM
 
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I found "Unconditional Parenting" to be thought-provoking, but, ultimately, I feel like one of the previous posters--it's very disingenuous for me to NEVER praise.  By nature, I'm an encourager.  I heap praise and compliments on everyone who is close to me... it would seem somehow wrong to do this for everyone but my son.  So, if he says, "Mommy, look at the rocket ship I built!" I'm likely going to say, "Awesome!"  He's clearly excited and happy about it, and wants me to share in that emotion.  It feels a bit robotic and weird to say, "Yes, I see you used all of the red legos.  Do you like it?"  (To which he might respond--were he surly and 16--"Uh, duh, mom, I obviously think it's awesome--I wanted to know what YOU thought of it.")  I fully understand that your children shouldn't feel as if your love is contingent on their accomplishments/talents/behavior/etc./etc.; however, I also believe that we all want to feel like those around us think the things we do are great--i.e., don't just eat the dinner I cooked for you and then ask me about the ingredients--tell me you liked it (damn it).  And praise is just one small part of the ways I show my son I love him.  I show him with my presence, my attention, my interest, my concern, my affection, my words (and some of those are inevitably words of praise).  Again, I think that's a very important book--we should ALL think carefully about our words and how we approach discipline--but I don't take the black-and-white view of praise that the author does, nor do I think I could be a genuine, honest parent if I followed his advice to the letter.

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#8 of 12 Old 09-17-2013, 04:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heatherlyb View Post
 

I found "Unconditional Parenting" to be thought-provoking, but, ultimately, I feel like one of the previous posters--it's very disingenuous for me to NEVER praise.  By nature, I'm an encourager.  I heap praise and compliments on everyone who is close to me... it would seem somehow wrong to do this for everyone but my son.  So, if he says, "Mommy, look at the rocket ship I built!" I'm likely going to say, "Awesome!"  He's clearly excited and happy about it, and wants me to share in that emotion.  It feels a bit robotic and weird to say, "Yes, I see you used all of the red legos.  Do you like it?"  (To which he might respond--were he surly and 16--"Uh, duh, mom, I obviously think it's awesome--I wanted to know what YOU thought of it.")  I fully understand that your children shouldn't feel as if your love is contingent on their accomplishments/talents/behavior/etc./etc.; however, I also believe that we all want to feel like those around us think the things we do are great--i.e., don't just eat the dinner I cooked for you and then ask me about the ingredients--tell me you liked it (damn it).  And praise is just one small part of the ways I show my son I love him.  I show him with my presence, my attention, my interest, my concern, my affection, my words (and some of those are inevitably words of praise).  Again, I think that's a very important book--we should ALL think carefully about our words and how we approach discipline--but I don't take the black-and-white view of praise that the author does, nor do I think I could be a genuine, honest parent if I followed his advice to the letter.

I agree with you, the author of this article does seem to take a black or white view of the issue. As with all things what feels natural and genuine to each parent or family member is always the best thing.


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#9 of 12 Old 09-17-2013, 10:49 PM
 
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More than just meaningless "good job!" type praise, I try to offer specific reasons why I'm thankful/grateful that he's done something. Such as: "that's really helpful to me when you clean up/listen/open the door for me". If it's a project or something that he's sharing with me, I do always find something positive to say about it; he's 4 and likes acknowledgement for what he's done. He also likes high-5s for things he's done that he's not fond of, like writing his name on the preschool sign-in sheet.


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#10 of 12 Old 09-17-2013, 11:36 PM
 
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I think the issue with praise is that children can learn to do things for other people without learning how to be self-motivated and proud of themselves (called "externally contexted").  That's why noting what the child did ("You spent a lot of time on that painting!") is preferable because it points out that they can be proud of their own effort, regardless of what other people think.  Those things can be said with genuine enthusiasm so they know you are paying attention and care.  Asking them questions can teach them to recognize when they put effort into something or when they had an idea that is extra special to them.  That said, I definitely don't think it's wrong for a parent to say something like "Good job!" sometimes when you really mean it, at a deserving time, as long as you're giving your child tools for assessing their own accomplishments as well. 

 

I'm actually a lot like your graduate student daughter: I loved the rewards and praise in school, from the stickers in elementary school to the straight As in college.  Those were great incentives, and I got very good a pleasing teachers/professors just enough to get a solid A with as little time investment as possible-- a very different formula from a goal of learning well, though hopefully there's still significant overlap.  It was a difficult shift for me to leave that kind of environment where your mom no longer declares her pride and your teachers no longer reward you with high grades.  It took a bit of an adjustment period for me to overcome that and learn to be satisfied without the external validation.

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#11 of 12 Old 09-18-2013, 01:21 PM
 
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I, too, agree with the idea of praising honestly.  I like to have my hard work acknowledged and my successes noticed, and I imagine my son does, too.  So I thank him when he does something I appreciate. I praise him when he does a good job at a difficult task.  I acknowledge how hard he worked if he worked hard at something.  However, I wouldn't want to give him excessive, undeserved praise.  I occasionally have students who don't seem to know how to function without praise, yet they aren't really doing work that merits praise.  I had a student recently who said, "O.K., I see what you mean about my not having an argument and not offering support for it, but you didn't say what you liked about the essay."  Um, the assignment was to write an argumentative essay that you supported, and you didn't do that, so, what exactly am I supposed to praise?  Nice font? This is a university class.  I left my gold stars at home.  Sorry.

 

Don't get me wrong.  I am not shy about praising my students for good work, or acknowledging hard work, but I won't praise them if they didn't work hard and didn't do good work.  I wouldn't want my son to get so used to being praised for everything that he couldn't pick up a piece of paper that he'd dropped (to use the OPs example) without expecting a celebration.  At some point I want him to pick up the piece of paper because the piece of of paper needed to be picked up, and he was the one who had dropped it.

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#12 of 12 Old 09-18-2013, 06:35 PM
 
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^^^This!^^^

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Gentle Discipline , Discipline , Unconditional Parenting Moving From Rewards And Punishments To Love And Reason

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