Monday, May 25, 2009

Can we Overdo the Praise?

I heard some "expert" the other day on the radio complaining about how parents these days praise their kids for everything: "You took a breath, good job, kiddo!" Somewhere out there in parent space there may be one or more of these individuals, but speaking for myself (which is all I can do) I don't think we praise our children nearly enough.

I am currently praising the babies when I catch one of them sitting on a chair, because I would rather see that than them standing on a chair, getting ready to climb onto the adjacent table. Believe it or not I think they are catching on. I also spend a fair amount of time taking them down off of chairs, and asking them to sit on their bottoms, but I could repeat those actions and say that phrase 1,000 times a day with little response on their part except to start climbing up again. After all, in these responses I’m paying attention to them when they are standing on the chair. When I say, "good sitting on bottom, I like that sitting" etc. their entire face lights up and they will sit longer. They understand that this makes Mommy happy, and that's the key.

Our oldest needs praise even more. Because she has a hard time interpreting language, not to mention social interaction and other information from her environment, giving her directions and expecting her to carry them out is a tall order. When she does it, she deserves recognition, and recognizing her achievements, no matter how small, makes her more willing to try again the next time we tell her to do something. It’s even more important to praise her when she does something that she really didn’t want to do, but she does it anyway.
Jesus told a story in Matthew 21:28-31 that is appropriate, though His end point was more esoteric.

“…There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and
work today in the vineyard.’

‘I will not, he answered, but later he changed his
mind and went…”

Jesus rhetorically points out that this son “did what his father wanted” even though his attitude wasn’t right at the beginning. When they do what we want them to do we need to recognize it, acknowledge it, and appreciate it.

Will they become dependent on praise for everything they do? Not if we shift from one accomplishment to another. I no longer make a big deal of it when our daughter puts her shoes on. She’s been doing it since she was two. Hey, I took video the first time she put her shoes on and it was a big deal. We were thrilled at her accomplishment. Now I praise her for listening when I tell her to put her shoes on because it’s time to go. This is much more of a challenge when she would rather keep playing than get in the car to go to school or to go shopping.

Can we take it too far? Only if our heart attitude puts our child before the One who deserves all of our praise.

Credit where it is due: I learned about this and other techniques I am currently using with my daughter from two wonderful people, Clarissa Montanaro and Robin Hauge. Please contact them at clarissamontanaro-AT-gmail-DOT-com for more information on this technique.

1 comment:

Nina said...

I don't think we can be too positive. especially when children are young. they get enough put downs in the world as it is. and experts say you need to say 10 good things for every negative. I praise my son all the time. I also correct him and he a is very well behaved, happy and charming child. when we are at the playground other kids come and play with him and ask me to help them with stuff. I often think its cause their parents are so busy correcting them its nice to hear someone say "good job climbing up there" "I really liked the way you were careful with that baby." I've worked with behaviorally disturbed kids and the training included praising. helping them to see they have control, and they are good at doing what needs to be done. I'd certainly rather be accused of overpraising than not.


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