Monday, August 21, 2006

In praise of not praising

For a few months when P was younger, I made a concerted effort to comment on her activities in a positive way, while at the same time not applying any judgement of what she was doing. If she went up the stairs on her own, I'd say, "You climbed up all by yourself!" instead of "Good job on the stairs!" Then I sort of fell off the wagon and went back to the generic "good job" whenever she did anything I liked. It wasn't even a matter of praising *her*, it was basically getting her to keep doing what she was already doing so I could have a few minutes' peace.

Then I read this. I am officially going to modify my ways. It's hard, not offering praise; she so clearly loves it, and it makes her feel so good. But I can also see how it will eventually come to undermine her view of her own skills and abilities. It's so easy to do the work for the praise, rather than the sense of achievement. I see that in myself, even today. Receiving praise from another gives me greater pleasure than my own sense of accomplishment, and that's a terrible thing. I want P and the Dude to be able to create their own feelings of well-being, rather than looking outside themselves for it. If that means taking praise away from them for the short term, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

But it's going to suck in the meantime.


nessa said...

I use praise to affirm positive behaviors, as I was taught to do when I was in school social work and when I was a substitute teacher. "I like how you're doing 'x'," or "What a good girl your are sitting so nicely," etc. I usually use it in only two contexts: Diaper Battles, I mean, Changes ("I like how nicely you're laying here for me.); and cleaning up ("What a big helper you are! Nice job!"). I suppose in these scenarios I could instead say: "Look how quickly the diaper change goes when you lay still," and "Look how nice the living room looks when all your toys are put away." In that case I'd be reinforcing the behaviour by pointing out positive results from the behaviour (not the behaviour itself). INTERESTING! Thank you for the link.

I'm also half & half with the random "good jobs" vs. just describing. Like when she climbed up the slide two days ago I said, "Yay! You climbed up the slide all by yourself! Good Job!"

I will definitely be more mindful of - and neutral about - my words. (And here I was thinking I was already being mindful and positive. Oy!)

Devan said...

I have read that before and while I do agree, I feel that dh and I have been doing a poor job. :(
D and ESPECIALLY the grandparents are horrible about saying "Good Job" and actually cheering and clapping whenever Dane does something they like. It frustrates me and I know they will not stop. D may, but not the gp's.
I myself need to be more mindful of what I say. I don't want him to become dependant on praise as I am often even as an adult.
Anyway, thanks for the link and the reminder. I am going to try harder and any suggestions of how to nicely tell other people would be appreciated. :)

macboudica said...

Interesting post. I kind of mix it up here. With three little guys I sometimes carelessly toss out a Good Job to one while in the next breath I am saying Don't touch your brother or steal his toy (etc) to the other. The Good Job is the more automatic response. I also do a lot of combining the two, like, Oh, that's great! You went pee in the potty. Good Job!" It just feels kind of wrong not to praise them at all. Thanks for that link.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that link. I had never read anything about the topic. I'm from a full-on clapping, whistling, good-jobbing family so I'm going to need to have a think about this new info...