Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Problem With Praise (rerun)

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Problem With Praise (rerun)

Praising our children is somthing deeply embedded in most parents parenting kit. It seems only natural we want to let our children know they are doing something wonderful, that they are doing something taht makes us happy and that we are proud of them.
Yet now it seems praise is a bad thing? What to make of this?

It is true that praise can be detrimental. In fact, when we praise our children we are passing judgement, we are telling them what you are doing NOW is great, so in their minds, they make up that all the other behavior is not great.
The thing with praise is that it is about what is right/kind/good to you, it does not internalise the value of behavior.
Most often, parents who praise their child also do the contrary, which is pointing out the bad behavior. Most often this is procured by shame, telling them they are a bad kid (when they do x or z). It lets the child know that your parental love is tied to conditions, that it only exist when the child behaves in the manner you like them too.

Not praising your child doesn't mean you don't appreciate your child or that you let them get away with unwanted behavior.

So how do you take on parenting without praising or shaming?
Proceed by using the language of non-violent communication: describe the acts your children has done without judging them, neutral. Then tell them about your feeling and needs or the feelings and needs of a third party. Inform them what you would rather have them do, give them options.

Your child hits the dog:
You say: You hit the dog. That hurts him and he does not like that. If you would like to play with the dog, throw the ball and let him fetch it. Or you can give him a cuddle or stroke him.



  1. Simple: you don't. You do praise, because kids have to learn that what they did was good - very good. And you don't shame. Never - ever. Shame is an emotion kids cannot deal with - very much like most adults - and it is an emotion not needed. Shame keeps up the system, because that's what the system is about, but it does not help the kids...

  2. Sorry to throw a spanner in the works, but what if your child says thanks for the option but they don't care about hurting the dog, that hitting it is fun?

    Children need to understand that there ARE some things that are fundamentally wrong, such as hurting others.

    And this doesn't just relate to their own behaviour. If someone touches a child inappropriately, for example, they need to understand that it's wrong, that they CAN pass a judgement on it, and that they can say no.

  3. I agree with this...praising children leads to them looking outside themselves for validation, instead of validating and loving themselves. Yes there should definetly be boundaries and consequences for actions...but your child is not "bad" there behavior is not ok or unacceptable. There are usually natural consequences whether the behavior is good or bad, if a chld hits a dog...maybe the natural consequence is the dog bites back? Either way there are lots of ways to teach children in a positive healthy way, displine doesn't mean punish....its all about guidance and education from love.

  4. Behaviouralism has been heartily embraced by our culture, but it is a relatively recent philosophy. If you research the history of behaviouralism as it was applied to parenting you'll see that it was based on faulty conclusions from experimental data (B.F. Skinner is considered to be the "father" of behaviouralism and even he had issues with how people were applying his work with rats and pigeons to children).

    It would take too long to explain how one can teach a child right from wrong without using reward and punishment (read Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards"), though reading on the origins of the philosophy should be enough to give any parent pause. Suffice it to say it is doable. I'm doing it and so are dozens of other families I know personally as well as tens of thousands of parents who recognize that behaviouralism is not only limited, but ineffectual - it produces short-term results with long-term negative consequences.


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