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the eric update - day 185: a craze for endless praise?

what's a parent to do?

you try your best to wade through the endless amount of parenting anectodes from more or less informed sources and as you're attempting to sift through what makes sense for you and your baby you'll often find yourself wondering where you left the handbook of authoratative information on your new bundle of joy.

a case in point. the the nov/dec issue of mothering magazine ( hey, look who is a month behind! ) has an article entitled "the craze for endless praise" with the tagline, "a child who is incessantly rewarded never learns the value or fulfillment of true accomplishment." the article prominantly features quotes from the author of "The Optimistic Child" who essentially asserts that an "overabundance of praise" can actually contribute to depression.

normally i'm one to take any piece of advice that doesn't have a scientifically grounded study to back it up with a Big Fat Grain of Salt.

but what if?

what if our exuberant exhortations after every one of little odin's accomplishments is actually setting the stage for an inflated sense of achievement?

where is that dang authoritative handbook?

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1/05/2005 11:18:00 PM 9 comments


Sorta de-lurking here...

I read this to my fiance, and he laughed and said, "Yes, if you're praising your 12 year old for 'what a good poo they had', that might be a little excessive..."

He's a strange lad.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:27 AM  

I don't know...praise is a good thing, however, I think it needs to be in balance with discipline! Think about it...even adults like a healthy dose of praise every now and then! I guess too much would be unhealthy. So everything in moderation...right?
Lori (Florida)
PS: I can not get over how much baby Eric has grown! Good for you all! Happy New Year!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 AM  

That was a hard lesson to learn. It is difficult to not be excited for your child over every little thing. We got stuck in the "reward for potty" cycle for a while until we realised that it was getting ridiculous. We've changed our language a bit - when the boys accomplish something, we never say "good boy" as it implies that to accomplish something makes him good and to fail would make him bad. We instead compliment the accomplishment "great job" or "your letter E looks so nice and straight" And, we try not to say things like "you make ME so happy when you pick up your toys" it's "wow, you cleaned up after yourself. You're getting to be so grown-up. You must be proud."

Anyway, I haven't read the article yet - but I just flipped through the magazine this morning. There is a photo in an article about peaceful children that struck a chord with me; A girl holding a sign that says something like "Why are we killing people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

There's a lot of articles out there with parenting advice and bottom line is that not all kids are alike, not all parents are alike, and some of the advice will apply and some of the advice won't.

By Blogger Candy, at 8:27 AM  

Hi guys,

Heather here in Nova Scotia. oh PUHLEASe!!!!! Another parenting magazine looking for a new hook!?!?!?!?

My kids are 19 and 23...from the generation of raising with positive far they have turned out ok..LOL! Probably because I think the best advice you could take is the one you already use...everything with one GIGANTIC grain of salt!!

Ok..I shouldn't equate babies to dogs..but I am going to! You guys have raised good dogs. I bet you did it with a lot of praise, reward and sometimes punishment. When Mauja (sp?) was a did a lot of oooohing and awwwing and cuddling..etc.. I bet. Has it harmed the dog? I bet not. Well it's the same with babies!!! and kids. Yes, at some point.."No" will become an issue..but who's just a fact of life. It happens. For now..just love that little sucker like mad and oooh and awww and praise him as much as possible because the praise is equally for you...for being such super parents ..let Odin recind by being the happiest most loved baby ever - in your eyes.

You guys are SUPER TERRIFIC parents...go with your gut instincts...they seem to have served you oh so well so far...and young Odin will and is..doing just fine.

BAH HUMBUG! On too much interjection by "experts". Inject the grain of salt theory and commonsense..and Odin is on his way to being one fantastic human being!!

Now..could I have some advice on this 80lb 7 month old Leonberger pup I have...who is loved madly...and is in level four of "obedience". She has us trained magnificently! *VBG*


HeatherM...too much praise? You have got to be kidding!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:01 AM  

any way you slice it, Odin *is* a special boy, and his amazing growth and development deserve to be noted! i think this article (and a similar one in a recent Psychology Today on "the over-coddled child") is warning of over-praise of much older kids, those who are aware enough to realize their parents' constant refrain that everything they do is "perfect" cannot possibly be true. The depression comes in when kids feel they cannot meet their parents' unrealistic expectation of perfection/specialness/talent in all things -- duh! So far, you Snowdeals seem to be on the right path of sensible parenting: you even use earth-friendly diapers, for heaven's sake. Keep up the good work! :) emily

By Blogger emily, at 10:36 AM  

Those articles always bother me too. Praising your child "feels" right, but I also get the idea that motivation best comes from within. I don't think you need to concentrate on praising less, but on praising smart. My grains of salt on this one are:
I praise the behavior rather than the child--their actions can be good or bad, but they don't make the child good or bad.
I praise specifically--"look how strong you are getting" instead of "what a good job!"
I praise the effort more than the accomplishment--because effort is the part the child has control over.
Accomplishments that follow much struggling get much praise, and much emphasis on how all their hard work paid off.
I emphasize how good it makes THEM feel to succeed. If my daughter keeps asking what I think about her picture, I'll ask her what SHE thinks.
I try to match the level of praise with the newness of the accomplishment. First pee in the potty=huge celebration. 265th pee in the potty, if requested, gets a "doesn't it feel good to be able to use the potty like a big girl?"


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:04 PM  

aha! my evil plan for getting people to comment worked! :-)

for anyone that went looking for the article and was confused as to why you couldn't find it i updated the post to reflect that is was the nov/dec issue not the latest issue, thusly giving away how far behind i am in reading.

i like the various "smart praise" advice that i see throughout the comments. although i must admit to the fact that it's very tough for me to stop saying, "what a good boy!"

maybe i should have kris follow me around and rap me on the knuckles with a ruler whenever i say it without thinking.

thanks for all your great comments!

By Blogger e3, at 12:14 PM  

Aha! It was all a plan to get us talking! Just wait until you start posting about discipline, lots of readers will delurk then!

I'm glad you updated your post, as I thought I'd been ripped off of an article in the lastest issue of Mothering. I flipped through it at least three times looking for that article. In the newest issue, someone from Maine wrote a response to this article.

Ah, don't feel so bad about saying "Good boy" you won't do any harm, it's just one of the things that stuck with me from reading a few books like "How To Behave So Your Children Will Too" One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone would comment on my baby who was happy at the moment, and say "what a good baby." What, so if he cried, he'd be BAD? I would just smile and say "all babies are good" - I don't believe in saying "bad boy" so I try not to say "good boy" either - but I've been known to say "wow, what a big boy" on occasion. It implies something a little bit different. Odin is definitely getting to be a very big boy - and he's always a good boy, whether he's rolling over on his own or just laying there staring at the ceiling. :)

By Blogger Candy, at 2:34 PM  

You might want to read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I have only read part of it, but my husband raves about this book. I think it has some food for thought.

My big complaint with the book is that it doesn't really deal with toddlers and I just don't know how you are supposed to get around praise with a kid that age. I do think the commenter who said you should not say "that makes me happy" is right though.

So glad to see Odin enjoying the olfactory goodness of cookies:)


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:54 AM  

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