Friday, May 26th, 2006
Is Praising Children Bad?
I’ve been trying to get my arms around a thought provoking article I read this week, Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!" by Alfie Kohn.
His Five Reasons article cites no researchâ€”only vague referencesâ€”but his ideas seem reasonable.
The premise: Loving our children unconditionally is good, but praising them is often bad. Praising a child by saying "Good job!" is a conditional thing, "offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us."
That rang true for me. I caught myself numerous times this week telling Little Miss "Good job!" or "Good! Good! Good!" … always because she had done something I asked of her. Am I orienting her actions toward pleasing her parents or should I teach her to do good things for their own sake?
One of Kohn’s suggestions, in lieu of saying "Good job," is to say what you see. For example, when we forgot to bring our Bilby shopping cart cover to the grocery store, Little Miss kept herself busy by helping us push the cart around the store. She stood directly in front of the adult driver and pushed. She is quite forceful and willing to push the cart much faster than Mom or Dad. I caught myself saying "Good job!" and then corrected with, "This cart is really moving. We sure are shopping fast today."
Many scenarios present themselves. When teaching Miss to share her toys, why say "Good job" because she did what I requested? Why not say, "My, look how happy you made your friend Melena when you shared that toy."
Give Five Reasons a read. I’d enjoy hearing how it works for you.