Reason #1 why I am going to be more careful telling my children "good job"...

By | 4:38 PM 1 comment
1) I might be creating praise junkies

That’s my favorite picture ever!
It was so nice of you to share with so and so!
You are such a great jumper!

As parents we can get somewhat addicted to praising our kids. Jeremiah and I jokingly laugh about how tunnel-visioned we can become in thinking our kids are the best…”That Ezra is so smart, you put food in his mouth and he eats it!” Just joking there, but I think you get the point.

When I applaud my child for things that aren't true achievements (she goes down the slide or puts her shoes on without my help), she might begin to expect praise all the time, which diminishes its meaning. I don’t want Ella and Ezra to become so dependent on my evaluations that they lose their ability to form their own judgments. Overpraising can lead them to measure their worth in terms of what will bring me to smile or dole out another accolade.

Also, if my compliments tend to be about me ("I think you did a great job") rather than about my child ("I'll bet you're proud of yourself"), I think they might start to look to me for my approval whenever they do something.

"Overpraising a child can get her hooked on success and celebration instead of being satisfied by her own accomplishment," says Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, author of Praising Boys Well and Praising Girls Well.

Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher at the University of Florida, discovered that students who were praised lavishly by their teachers were more tentative in their responses, more apt to answer in a questioning tone of voice ("Um, seven?"). They tended to back off from an idea they had proposed as soon as an adult disagreed with them. And they were less likely to persist with difficult tasks or share their ideas with other students.

In short, a knee jerkgood job” on my part doesn’t really do much to reassure or encourage my children. It might create a cycle where the more I slather on the praise, the more my children seem to need it, and so I praise them some more. Will they grow up only able to evaluate their accomplishments based on the approval or disapproval of others?
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Jessie said...

Yeah I can see how it can be detrimental with excessive use, but I suppose it also has to do with context. Saying "yaaaay!' when a kid goes down the slide reassures them that it wasnt scary and it's okay if you do it again. Maybe like saying "ouch, hot" when they go near the stove will speak to them more than NO will because NO just means "I dont want you to have any fun" to a two year old. Ouch means serious business, I could get hurt, and I dont like that.

Then again, saying good job when a toddler goes on the potty really IS a good job. Not going in the diaper is a job for someone who is two. Remembering to brush your teeth on your own is a good job of remembering something like that. Or at the very least, it deserves some kind of recognition.

It's an interesting perspective, something I never even thought of before. Something else to think about is what the effects of calling a child a "bad boy" or a "bad girl" is. Do you think it will do anything to how they feel about their gender? Or is that a stretch.

Keep up the thought provoking stuff, I like it.