Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Praise Junkie.

Tell me if you think the following conversations sound normal.

#1

Me: Look Ben (my husband) I put the dish in the dishwasher after I was done using it.

Ben: Good job. You are so good today. You can put the dish in the dish washer yourself.

or...

Me: Ben, I just peed in the toilet.

Ben: Good job. I knew you could do it. You are so good.

or...

Me: I just put the lid on a Tupperware container.

Ben: Wow, you are so smart. Good job!


Sound weird? Yes, for 27 year old people to praise each other like that sounds like mockery. In fact, I would probably get the 'are you serious?' look from my husband if I treated him like that. Then why do we do that to children?

I know it sounds so counter-intuitive. You want a child to do something, eg put away the dishes, they do it then you follow up with 'Good job!! thank you for putting away the dishes, you are such a good boy'. But how long do you do this for? At some point won't you just want the child to put away his dish with no reward of praise? I just don't think it makes sense to praise a child for doing something they are supposed to do.
Maybe dishes is a bad example. But what about saying 'Good Job' for putting a smaller cup into a larger cup? On one hand, it is good that they are learning to do that. On the other hand, why should they be praised for playing and learning? Does the child then learn to do a certain something just to get that good warm fuzzy feeling from their parents? Say one day I decide not to praise or I forget that I usually say 'good job' for playing with the cups the 'right' way. Does the child then have to do something bigger and better for praise constantly seeking approval from their parents?
I think it's wrong to use praise as a form of manipulation. I don't want to pull at Luke's emotions by using praise to manipulate him into doing something that I want him to do. Then he learns to do things just for my love and affection. If I constantly praise-manipulate him, he things the only way he'll get my smiling approving face is to do something that merits a 'good job'. Shouldn't I always have an accepting attitude and unconditional love for my child?
I know that I am a praise junkie. I like it when my husband tells me I did a good job. Sometimes I tell him what I've done just to get a praise. I hate that I like praise so much. I wish I was free of it. Free to just do things for the sake of doing them, not for praise. So, please, stop saying "good job" to my child, let him be free.

7 comments:

Lisa C said...

I love this post. You hit on so many important points here. There is no need to praise children for learning/playing/experimenting. They do this naturally, and praising them could end up limiting their behavior to only the very specific things that got them praise, instead of continuing to experiment and learn.

And I love how you point out that we can become praise junkies. It's so much better if we can do things because we see they need to be done or that we get satisfaction out of doing them...or even do things to please someone but with no thought of reward or recognition. I was a praise junkie, too. Somewhere in the last couple of years I got free of it. I think it was a conscious decision to first do things only if I really wanted to, without worrying about pleasing anyone. Now I've moved into a level where I can do things for others because I care about them, but I don't need any recognition for it. It's a great place to be. I'm so much happier now.

Pickle said...

I agree. I think the hardest thing is doing things because you WANT to do them, not just because you feel like you have to. I wish I could do that. I wonder if kids who are praise junkies turn in to adults who try to please others and not themselves. Especially doing something nice for someone... I like just doing it with out praise. There's much more merit in doing it because you think they would really like it vs doing it so they thank you. This could even go as far as being a spiritual discussion :)

Williams family said...

I see what you're saying, but we ALL are encouraged by praise. Praise is what motivates us to continue...especially those things that if it were just up to us, we maybe wouldn't do. Praise matures as the child matures. No, you aren't always going to give praise for going to the bathroom. You change what you praise as you change what's important.

And, the most important thing about praise, is that you don't want to live in an atmosphere of criticism (negative) without the balance of praise (positive). Who wants to only be talked to if something is wrong?

You're a good mom Cassie! Really! (Maybe a little sassy at times, but I still love ya!)

Pickle said...

I mean, I think there needs to be appreciation. But, like Lisa said, I think it's better to want to do things because you want to do them, not for the 'good job'. I think there is moderation for praise, but usually kids are praised for things that they don't need to be praised for. Like, for instance, walking. Luke is going to walk no matter what I say. Why would I praise him for something he is naturally going to do? I'm not saying that I'm being negative, but I'm not over doing it either. I think there's a fine line between praise and encouragement.
As far as me being a praise junkie, I wish I could just do something with out being praised. Being praised is ok... but it shouldn't be the reason for me doing something. I think children sometimes learn, when done over excessively to only do something just solely for praise.
I think you guys are good parents too.. Ben and I always use you guys in examples of what we would like to be like. So thanks for being a good role model amongst the not as good :)

Lisa C said...

I was just thinking today that there is definitely a difference between praise and encouragement/reassurance/positive feedback. For example, we were at the pool today and I was teaching him to kick, and when he did it, I gave him positive feedback by saying "good kicking!" so he would know he was doing it right. If he had done this on his own, I wouldn't have said anything. Or, if he has to do something he doesn't like, such as taking medicine, I will give him reassurance. If he does something nice for me, I will say thank you. He gets lots of positive feedback but very little praise. I try not to interfere when he is exploring, experimenting, or playing. That's his time to do his own thing, and he doesn't need to worry about what I think.

Pickle said...

That's exactly what I think is right and sums it up really well. I agree.

shaktimama said...

Excellent points! I've just learned myself about how praising can be manipulative and how children actually feel free to learn and explore more when they feel they aren't doing it to impress or satisfy their parents. They have to do it for themselves :). Kohn talks a lot about this in his book, too.