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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I picked up "Unconditional Parenting" at the library the other day, and I'm almost halfway through. I've agreed with everything I've read so far. I feel that I do a pretty good job with unconditional parenting most of the time, but even so, since I started reading this book I've noticed how often I praise my son without really thinking about it, and for silly things.<br><br>
For instance, yesterday my son threw an empty cracker box on the ground. I said, "That belongs in the recycle!" and he picked it up and put it in the recycle box. And what did I say after that? "Good listening! Thank you for recycling!" <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/duh.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="duh"><br><br>
Good listening!? Ugh... that's what his ears are FOR, for cryin' out loud.<br><br>
I've also noticed that I use "Good job!" waaaaaaay more than I thought I did. I've NEVER agreed with using that phrase, and made a point of not using it when I worked in a kindergarten class, and yet I find myself saying it to my son without even realising it until the words are already out of my mouth.<br><br>
We don't punish in this house, we don't withhold love or affection, and I don't ever refer to my son's actions as "misbehaviour". I just find it interesting how easy it is to praise without thinking about it, without putting much thought into the words being said or even noticing that you're saying them unless you're trying to stop.<br><br>
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book and seeing what else good old Alfie has to say, and his suggestions for alternatives to praise.
 

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Someone posted something about saying, "Good job!" on the API group site I frequent. I'll rarely say it when DS does something, usually when he does it for the first time, but then I'll be careful not to say it anymore. The best way I've found to do it is basically to state what they did. When he does something, I'll say, "Wow! Look what you did all by yourself!" I think being able to do the thing is enough of a reward in itself. My LO still smiles a lot when I help him stand up and pull himself up, so I know it's rewarding for him to do and knowing that helps me to stop telling him that he did something good.
 

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I'm currently re-reading UP myself. It's a really great book, but I think it can inspire some parental paranoia, too. I do agree that over-praise is a bad thing, as is manipulative praise, but I think genuine praise, so long as it is not overdone and is not intended to cause the behavior to occur again in the future, is non-harmful, and dare I say, human. Whenever my daughter puts things away--as in your example--I just say, "thanks," and I mean it. I try to respond to her in a way that I would to another adult. Just as I wouldn't tell my hubby "great job throwing that piece of dirt away!," neither would I say that to my daughter. When my daughter does something totally unexpected and amazing, I will probably burst out with a "Wow! That was really cool/awesome/interesting, etc." Alfie would probably not approve, but as I said, so long as it is heartfelt, I think a child can tell the difference. I tend to avoid the "You must feel so proud of yourself" phrase, as to me that's putting limitations on her--how do I know if she feels proud or not? In general I try to not overdo even genuine praise--I keep it quick and light--and then we move on.
 

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But I think this is the kind of praise that Kohn would be okay with. He does expect us to be genuine. I have this book but I honestly don't remember a whole lot about it because I read <span style="text-decoration:underline;">Punished By Rewards</span> as a teacher before I read UP as a parent and it was really just two versions of the same thinking. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"><br><br>
One thing I think is huge (as a person with a srtong behaviourist background) is that a "classic" training move for elminating unwanted behaviour is to put that behaviour on a cue and then to <b>not give the cue.</b> I think there's a similar issue with praise a lot of the time. It's one thing to spontaneously express excitement, and it's another to rotely repeat praise.
 

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ive been pretty influenced by UP and really enjoyed his article on <a href="http://theparentingpit.com/alternative-parenting/five-reasons-to-stop-saying-good-job/" target="_blank"><i>5 reasons to stop saying Good Job</i></a>.<br><br>
In that article down near the bottom he offers some alternatives, which briefly are:<br>
- saying nothing<br>
- describing what happened factually<br>
- noting the impact of an action on others<br>
- asking questions<br><br>
ive really worked hard over the last few years to use a combination of these. So now when dd shouts "look at me dad!" as she hangs off some playground equipment, i now say something like, "how does that feel?"... and get to respond more to her excitement and own sense of accomplishment. It feels right <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"><br><br>
In transitioning out of praise I often would ask myself, "would i say those words, in that way to my partner or a friend?" before i offer feedback on something to my children.<br><br>
I generally dont try to manipulate or mould the behaviour of my partner and friends, so this is a pretty effective guide ive found.<br><br>
arun
 

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I think it is important to keep in mind that you can underdo the recognition to and that children want and need to be recognized at times even for little things. There should definitely be a balance but maybe you are praising a lot lately because your son needs to hear a lot of recognition lately and you are unconsciously responding to that.
 

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The idea that <i>genuine</i> praise is okay is one you see pretty often here, but it's not a message I found in Unconditional Parenting. Here's what Kohn says:<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">But what if praise is just a spontaneous reaction of delight to something our children have done, with no attempt to "reinforce" a certain behavior? This is undeniably a big improvement with respect to our motives. But, once again, what matters isn't the message you sent - or even the reason you sent it. What matters is the message the child received. What's most striking about a postive judgment is not that it's positive. . . . No, what's most striking is that it's a judgment. Why do we feel the need to keep evaluating our children's actions, turning them into "jobs" that may, if they're lucky, be deemed "good"?</td>
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I'm not even sure exactly what people mean when they talk about "genuine" praise. Praise that's not meant to be manipulative? (But when parents praise their children to encourage them to repeat a behavior, don't they usually praise behaviors they genuinely appreciate?) Praise that isn't just given automatically, without thinking? (But aren't the harmful effects of praise <i>more</i> likely when your kid can tell you really mean it?)
 

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I've read UC and although it has lots of wonderful stuff in it, I don't completely agree with everything Alfie Kohn says. On the one hand, I have purged "Good Job" from my vocabulary; on the other hand, I do acknowledge many things DD does that AF may not have approved of me praising. That's OK.<br><br>
I agree with LuxPerpetua that AF can cause unnecessary parental paranoia. This business of analyzing EVERY SINGLE THING you say is, IMO, unnecessary. I also agree with One_Girl that kids need recognition and denying them that can be downright cruel.<br><br>
There's a healthy balance out there and you can find it. Good luck! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 

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I'm re-reading UP these days. It's a good one to pick up when I need to nurture my parening "perspective." <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"><br><br>
We're not huge praisers around here unless it feels natural and then it's just a natural thing that comes out. I don't even think about it. KWIM? We do try to be polite to each other, please and thank you and in the case of throwing the paper into the recycling, I'd been more likely to say, "Thanks Sweet" because more than anything else, I'm grateful for him taking responsibility and not leaving it to me! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="orange big grin"> There have been a few occasions where I have praised DS in a way that wasn't so "genuine" and I knew it the moment it came out of my mouth. It felt all wrong. In all of those few instances, DS's response to me was clearly one of having felt patronized. He clearly knows the difference and isn't interested in being praised for praising-sake. It doesn't mean anything to him and he clearly doesn't crave it. Indeed, he thinks it rather suspicious if I'm reading him correctly.<br><br>
For me, because I'm not interested in controlling DS's behavior, not overly-praising it's just a way of life. It's just the way we relate (or don't relate<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">) to each other. I take genuine interest in his interests and that speaks volumes over any "good job" I could ever utter. I do praise but it's usually with the bent of "YOU must feel very proud or YOU did it. Not taking credit for HIS accomplishments as it were. I share in his joys and accomplishments. We get excited about things together and when he's achieved a goal and I can see he's soooo proud of himself he's usually the first to say, "I'm really proud of myself." To which I reply, "I can certainly see why!"<br><br>
The best, and happy reading...<br><br>
Em
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well, I'm farther into the book now, and have read his suggestions on alternatives to praise. Great stuff! I already make a point to notice actions without adding judgement ("You put your toys away!"), but the rest I haven't tried yet - ie asking how my son feels about what he did, inviting reflection, etc. - mainly because my son is only 18 months old and it wouldn't be age-appropriate.<br><br>
The more I work on eliminating praise, the more I notice <i>how much</i> the people around me praise my son for silly things.<br><br>
We go to a parent-child drop-in centre a few times a week to play and make crafts, and the teacher there just loooooves to praise. Yesterday, my son was drawing on a birthday card we were making for his grandma, and the teacher looked over his shoulder and said, "Wow, Lynden, good colouring!" Ten minutes later, when he was on the carpet playing with blocks, she crouched down to watch him and said, "Good stacking, Lynden!" She praised my son at least ten times in the course of a couple hours! Of course, she was trying to be friendly and encouraging, but I was dumbstruck by how often she used praise.<br><br>
Unconditional Parenting has been a good read so far. I was always a little wary of praise and "Good job!", but Alfie's writings have given me a lot more to reflect on. Like a lot of you, I don't agree with everything he says, but he makes some very good points and has gotten the wheels turning in my head.
 

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Sorry, I'm new to this specific topic, can any of you ladies give me some more info please? TIA!<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink">
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>lobster</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/10771594"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Well, I'm farther into the book now, and have read his suggestions on alternatives to praise. Great stuff! I already make a point to notice actions without adding judgement ("You put your toys away!"), but the rest I haven't tried yet - ie asking how my son feels about what he did, inviting reflection, etc. - mainly because my son is only 18 months old and it wouldn't be age-appropriate.</div>
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OK, so I have to ask. How is that different from "manipulative praise"? I assume you're saying, "You put your toys away!" in an enthusiastic tone with a facial expression that displays your approval? Or do you say it with completely flat affect in a monotone? (In which case I would say, "Why bother?) Whether you say, "I'm glad you picked up your toys, now our house is neater and I won't trip over them" or "You picked up your toys!" in a happy voice, your kid's probably getting the same message.<br><br>
Personally, I have decided that there's nothing that wrong with a little specific praise here and there. I'm really much more a fan of Becky Bailey's and HTTSKWL's idea of specific, targeted praise. And I think "good job" falls in that category. It's referring to that particular incident where the child did something particularly well. It's not backing the child into a corner where they feel like they have some incredibly difficult image to live up to, it's just a phrase to point out that you liked it when your child did XYZ.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Daffodil</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/10768610"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">The idea that <i>genuine</i> praise is okay is one you see pretty often here, but it's not a message I found in Unconditional Parenting. Here's what Kohn says:<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">But what if praise is just a spontaneous reaction of delight to something our children have done, with no attempt to "reinforce" a certain behavior? This is undeniably a big improvement with respect to our motives. But, once again, what matters isn't the message you sent - or even the reason you sent it. What matters is the message the child received. What's most striking about a postive judgment is not that it's positive. . . . No, what's most striking is that it's a judgment. Why do we feel the need to keep evaluating our children's actions, turning them into "jobs" that may, if they're lucky, be deemed "good"?</td>
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I'm not even sure exactly what people mean when they talk about "genuine" praise. Praise that's not meant to be manipulative? (But when parents praise their children to encourage them to repeat a behavior, don't they usually praise behaviors they genuinely appreciate?) Praise that isn't just given automatically, without thinking? (But aren't the harmful effects of praise <i>more</i> likely when your kid can tell you really mean it?)</div>
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My experience growing up was that my own personal evaluations of my accomplishments and behavior were invalid. Only my mother's valuation made a particular deed valuable.<br><br>
For obvious reasons, I'm not perpetuating this tactic ;-) and I think that's the entire point behind what Kohn is saying here. Spontaneous praise honestly communicates *our own* feeling about what the child did (or didn't do). Descriptive "praise" recognizes an action (or restraint), without adding evaluation. The issue is whether the child receives the message that they MUST feel as we do about the event.<br><br>
If you see your child do something that amazes you, and you blurt out, "Wow! That was amazing!" and the child whips their head around, looks at you, and IMMEDIATELY attempts to replicate the action, then you know that your message was perceived as a reinforcement and manipulation of their behavior. If their response is more like "Yeah, it was, wasn't it?" or even just going on to something else, you know that they're making their own evaluations of their behavior, which is the goal.<br><br>
So, what do you do if you realize your child is interpreting your spontaneous delight in their actions as manipulation? Kohn actually offers some ideas that help with this (though I don't think he makes the connection explicit... still). Following up with a question that prompts the child to make their own evaluation, or to come up with something new that they may find more satisfying, can break them out of the idea of accepting your valuation of their behavior. When they do whatever-it-is over again to try to trigger the same response, you can say, "You did it again. Is it a lot of fun? How does it feel to __________?" Or you can say "Now what do you want to do next?" Either way, you're pushing it back to them to think about their actions and form their own response.
 

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This discussion is really helpful to me as this is an area where I am trying to define my own comfort level, which may or may not completely be in agreement with Alfie Kohn.<br><br>
Since being introduced to AKs work last year, my dh and I have given up saying "good job" - no small feat! Our responses are now a mix of things - sometimes we describe the action "you drew a picture of a tree," sometimes we ask a question "how did that make you feel?" and many times we say "you did it!" with varying levels of enthusiasm.<br><br>
I believe it was Barbara Colorosso's "Kids Are Worth It" that recommends that when we respond to children, we match their enthusiasm. I thought that made sense. If they run in the room screaming, "mommy, I finally did x all by myself," it would be appropriate - and presumably not manipulative - to respond excitedly. But if they nonchalantly show you 5 drawings they did, a matter-of-fact response is warranted.<br><br>
I am inclined to think that this approach is consistent with AK as long as the words used don't imply judgment and value. This would be a case of sharing and connecting, not of judging. Anyone agree or disagree?<br><br>
Theresa
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>natensarah</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/10772735"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">OK, so I have to ask. How is that different from "manipulative praise"? I assume you're saying, "You put your toys away!" in an enthusiastic tone with a facial expression that displays your approval? Or do you say it with completely flat affect in a monotone? (In which case I would say, "Why bother?) Whether you say, "I'm glad you picked up your toys, now our house is neater and I won't trip over them" or "You picked up your toys!" in a happy voice, your kid's probably getting the same message.<br><br>
Personally, I have decided that there's nothing that wrong with a little specific praise here and there. I'm really much more a fan of Becky Bailey's and HTTSKWL's idea of specific, targeted praise. And I think "good job" falls in that category. It's referring to that particular incident where the child did something particularly well. It's not backing the child into a corner where they feel like they have some incredibly difficult image to live up to, it's just a phrase to point out that you liked it when your child did XYZ.</div>
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I have a couple of questions. First, what is HTTSKWL?<br><br>
And second, I am not sure what you are trying to say in your first paragraph, but am very curious as to what you mean. Is it wrong to say "I'm glad you picked up your toys, now our house is neater and I won't trip over them"? I thought that a sentence like that was okay to say but you are equating it with "you picked up your toys!" in a happy voice, and it seems to me like you disagree with that phrase... So are you just overall trying to disagree with the way lobster uses praise with her son???
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>natensarah</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/10772735"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I assume you're saying, "You put your toys away!" in an enthusiastic tone with a facial expression that displays your approval? Or do you say it with completely flat affect in a monotone? (In which case I would say, "Why bother?) Whether you say, "I'm glad you picked up your toys, now our house is neater and I won't trip over them" or "You picked up your toys!" in a happy voice, your kid's probably getting the same message.</div>
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That's always been my thought. I honestly can't imagine going through life trying *not* to influence my kids *in any way* through my words, expressions or actions...... I'd have to constantly censor myself and what good would that do anyone? I'm not here to be an impartial observer, part of my job (imo) is to be a guide and teacher.<br>
So, I do use "positive reinforcement" with the kids. If my 3yo remembers to put his dirty laundry in the hamper, you better believe I say "thank you!" with a big happy face. Manipulative? Yes, yes it is. But it's not for my own sadistic purposes of proving that I can bend a small child to my will..... it's because now, and for the rest of his life, I really want him to put his dirty laundry in the hamper and not leave it on the floor to be picked up by "someone else".<br><br>
If I said nothing, a la`A.K., he might learn someday to put his own laundry away and he might get a great sense of pride for doing it........ but it's also quite likely that 30 years form now, some other person will be picking up my grown son's laundry muttering to him/herself about "why oh why didn't his parents teach him to pick up after himself?!"<br><br>
And earlier today, the boys and I were all gathered around the kitchen island painting and we were all complimenting each other on how great our paintings were..."oh mom, I like the colors you picked for your dragon fly!" and "oh honey, I really like your frog". My oldest, who's 10, actually said to me "Wow, you did a <i>great job</i> on that duck picture!!"......... and you know what? It felt good! It WAS a good duck picture..... he was swimming along in a pretty blue pond (painted with blue paint that I mixed myself) and he had a cute little red umbrella with white polka-dots....... I did do a "good job" and it was nice to hear that someone other than me thought so. I can't for the life of me see why any of that was wrong or how it would have helped the situation if DS had just looked at it and said, in a monotone voice, "OH, I see you painted a duck......"
 

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I dont know... this is one GD principal that I really disagree with. I know a few people who grew up like this (relatively no praise). these are very good friends of mine.<br><br>
They are insecure, and depend on friends instead of family for praise. I think that they are way more susceptible to peer preasure when they are thank my brother and sister. (The people that I'm thinking of are my age).<br><br>
I think it is natural for a child to seek aproval... and if they can't find it in their parents they look for it elsewhere.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>bright_eyes</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/10775311"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I have a couple of questions. First, what is HTTSKWL?</div>
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Sorry! I kind of hate it when people use abbreviations all the time, and then I do it too. It's "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish.<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>bright_eyes</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/10775311"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">And second, I am not sure what you are trying to say in your first paragraph, but am very curious as to what you mean. Is it wrong to say "I'm glad you picked up your toys, now our house is neater and I won't trip over them"? I thought that a sentence like that was okay to say but you are equating it with "you picked up your toys!" in a happy voice, and it seems to me like you disagree with that phrase... So are you just overall trying to disagree with the way lobster uses praise with her son???</div>
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Well, I have never read UP. I had my sister read it for me, and then she summarized it.<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"><br><br>
Seriously, though, I was just basing my info of AK on his article "Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job". I thought my original phrase would be unacceptable w/AK, but really, for the sake of argument, I could have used "Good job picking up your toys!" I'm not disagreeing at all with how Lobster praises her son, and I say "You did it!" all the time, and actually, more specifically, I say, "You stopped in the middle of your game and ran into the bathroom and went pee all by yourself, and your underpants stayed dry!" I'm just saying that I can't try to pretend that I'm not praising my son when I say that, or that saying, "You picked up your toys!" in an enthusiastic tone could be manipulative if you wanted it to. Or that "Good job making it to the bathroom with dry pants!" is going to have that much different effect. It's really splitting hairs.<br><br>
In response to the pp who said that it was only her mother's judgement of things that mattered, don't you think the problem was more about your mother not trusting or respecting your opinion? Couldn't she have still used praise and just been more open to what you thought was interesting and cool?
 

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Natensarah, I'm sorry, I think I am just way too tired today!!! I should have waited to respond because woobysma's response to your post clarified exactly what you meant. I don't know why I didn't get it upon first reading it. You were just stating that "you picked up your toys" can be seen as manipulative unless you are saying it without any emotions expressed, which would then be pointless to say. I just couldn't make sense of your original post but now it makes perfect sense!!!<br><br>
And I'm actually really glad that you made it and the way this discussion is turning. I have read UC parenting and I get what AK is saying but at the same time, it doesn't feel very natural or intuitive to never give your child positive feedback/reinforcement. His book has helped me in that I don't doll out mindless praise, but I still try to let ds know that I am happy when he does certain things that I want him to learn to do.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>woobysma</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/10775496"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">And earlier today, the boys and I were all gathered around the kitchen island painting and we were all complimenting each other on how great our paintings were..."oh mom, I like the colors you picked for your dragon fly!" and "oh honey, I really like your frog". My oldest, who's 10, actually said to me "Wow, you did a <i>great job</i> on that duck picture!!"......... and you know what? It felt good! It WAS a good duck picture..... he was swimming along in a pretty blue pond (painted with blue paint that I mixed myself) and he had a cute little red umbrella with white polka-dots....... I did do a "good job" and it was nice to hear that someone other than me thought so. I can't for the life of me see why any of that was wrong or how it would have helped the situation if DS had just looked at it and said, in a monotone voice, "OH, I see you painted a duck......"</div>
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I think this example says it all. Of course praise from somebody we love feels good. Why does there have to be something wrong with this? I like Alfie Kohn's ideas about not forming a relationship with your child which is dependent upon praise and and blame. It's obviously unhealthy if your child feels like you LOVE them more because you praise them. But really, isn't it unhealthy also to be dishonest with your child about your feelings? I think I'd feel really annoyed if I were a child and I drew a really cool picture and my mom said to me monotonously "OH, I see you painted a duck..." rather than expressing her genuine enthusiasm at my artwork.<br><br>
Personally, I think kids are excellent motive detectors. If you say "good job" and really mean it, they can tell. If you say "good job" just to try and boost their self image or out of habit or just because you want them to repeat their actions, I think they can detect the insincerity.<br><br>
I remember that my mom (who I love dearly) would always praise my piano playing insincerely, I think because she wanted me to feel good about myself as a teenager. It drove me nuts. I didn't even want to play in front of her. But once, she gave me actual praise about watching me run in a cross-country race. She told me that it made her cry to watch me run. I can still remember how important her specific emotional reaction was to me. If she had said nothing that day, or told me "I was watching you at the end of your race, and you looked like you were trying really hard," I never would have known that she actually cared.
 
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