Monday, November 10, 2008

5 Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!" to your kids.

I read this article at, and some of what is stated in the article helps explain why so many young adults have a lack of ambition, yet such a strong sense of entitlement.

Creating praise junkies.
Rather than bolstering a child's self-esteem, praise may increase kids' dependence on us. The more we say, "I like the way you'." or "Good ______ing," the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what's good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval.

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, "Good job!" doesn't reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK. Surely this is not what we want for our daughters and sons.

I've seen time and time again that more difficult praise is to get, the more it's valued. When you continuously blow smoke up your kids ass, your praise doesn't mean anything anymore. It makes a person lazy, it's internalized as "I'm great...I don't have to bother trying" or "It doesn't matter what I do...I'm great".

I realize that this isn't exactly what the article means to say, but it plays into what I perceive to be a part of the problem. For years, the importance of not damaging a child's self-esteem was pushed so hard, that even insincere praise was encouraged.
If it's insincere, it doesn't mean anything. What's worse, it creates a vicious circle of expectations for the child, and parental fear to the point that you cannot even tell your child the truths that they need to hear for fear of "damaging their self-esteem".

Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that's often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.

What I can't stand is to hear children and teens praised for things that they should be doing anyway. "Thank you for picking up your toys!" or, "Good job putting your dishes in the sink" or worse, paying a child or teenager to pick up after themselves.

It's one of my pet peeves. It tells them that they're doing their parents a favour for looking after themselves...and then we sit and wonder where this attitude of entitlement comes from.

I was thinking the other day about how old my mother and uncle were when they came to Canada. My mother was 21 and my uncle was almost 18.
A lot of 18 year old's I know today can barely get themselves to school a few blocks away on time, never mind move to another country and make a life for themselves.

Just pointless pondering while I should be working...Ok, I did read the article for work...