But for me, it’s fascinating how our children take those 3 little words and attach completely unintended meanings to them.
Becoming more aware of this myself, after my husband had left the bathroom, I decided to ask my daughter what “Be good!” means and her reply really shocked me.
“It means I’m not good, it means I’m bad.”
And I know this is NOT the message my husband or any of us, wanted to pass on to our children.
I thought praise was a good thing, I thought it was what I was supposed to do to raise well-behaved kids with good self-esteem.
“The good boys and good girls” … The “You make me so happy…”
The reward and sticker charts…
These techniques we use to control our child’s behaviour just DON’T work in the way we think they do.
What your child really thinks about praise.
So, what’s wrong with praise?
Let’s look at how praise can backfire and what’s really going on when we use it.
This was such an eye-opener for me I was sure all the ‘good girl’ and ‘good boy’ and all the stickers and reward charts were the way to go to get a compliant child. Just look on Amazon and you’ll find over a gazillion results for sticker charts and reward charts.
Let’s look at it from the child’s point of view.
1. Think about the times you use praise with your own children.
Chances are you use praise to get them to do something or you praise them when they’ve done something you have asked them to do.
Maybe they get a sticker on their chart if they have behaved in the way you want them to.
It’s so fascinating to pay attention to this, take a few hours and listen, not just to yourself and your own communication but out and about.
Not to judge but to see how prevalent it is in our society and most of us don’t even know we do it.
I walked down the path outside my kid’s school at pick up time and listened…
“Good boy! you stopped when I asked you to.”
“Good girl! You put your coat on.”
“Good girl, you’re getting in the car when I asked.”
“Good boy, you played nicely with Joey.”
You can see how this starts to feel like manipulation and control over the child.
They are only GOOD if they are DOING something to please us. It’s waving a carrot in order to influence your child to do what you want.
2. If a child doesn’t have the same self-image as the one you’re praising it can lead to anger and distrust.
“I’m not clever, Sally is so much better than me. I’m just copying her.” Or “I hate my hair. What do you know?!”
There is a mismatch in what you are saying and what your child is thinking. This can lead to your child to conclude that you wouldn’t say that if you understood what I really think. This can start to break the trust between you and your child.
3. The absence of praise can feel like criticism.
“I tried and tried all week to be good at school and I didn’t get the ‘star’ of the week. I must not be good enough.” I often hear this at the school gates at pick up time.
or “You didn’t say anything about how hard I tried with my homework; you must not be pleased with me.” or “I tried ALL week not to whack my brother when he annoyed me and you didn’t notice.”
4. we train our children to look outside themselves for validation.
And they grow to depend on it. They can start to judge themselves on how well-liked they are by others and the feedback they get from others.
When we’re busy evaluating our children, they learn to stop evaluating how they think they did. “Wasn’t I good, mummy?” “Didn’t I DO well?” rather than their inner guidance.
Another issue with praise is that when we are busy evaluating them, they start to crave it from others and they soon turn to their peers for praise. ‘Like me, like me…” ”what do I have to do to be accepted?”
This can lead to peer pressure and even a victim mindset. As they start to value what others think about them, more than what they think about themselves
5. Praise can cause sibling rivalry and resentment.
Before, I became a parenting coach, my son, the more complaint child, was always “Good-boy-ed .”
My daughter, the more strong-willed or impulsive child not so much. So just by default, that child isn’t good. In their eyes they’re bad. And that is exactly what my daughter told me one day. “How come I don’t get “Good girl-ed Aren’t I ‘Good?”
so, what can we do instead? Acknowledge
Acknowledgement has a FAR greater impact on our child’s sense of self than any praise we can ever give.
It is how they start to see themselves.
Praise is all about what WE think. What WE like.
Acknowledgement is ALL about the child. Who SHE is. What SHE thinks. What SHE Likes.
See the difference? Your child will.
In Language of Listening® the 3-part coaching model I teach, we swap praise for STRENGTHs
Strengths become our child’s inner guidance and they act in accordance with who they believe they are.
Let’s look at a few examples:
‘Good boy for putting on your coat.” becomes “You put your coat on all by yourself, that shows you’re so independent, or you know what you need to stay warm outside.”
“Good girl for stopping when I asked” becomes “You know how to stop to stay safe, or you remembered the rule to wait before you cross the road. or you stopped by the road you’re responsible.”
“Good boy, you played nicely with Joey.” becomes “What a considerate friend, you found a way for you both to have fun. or what a problem solver you are! you both wanted to play with the toy car and you came up with an idea that would work for you both.”
Have you ever thought of praise in this way? Once you become aware of how we typically use praise, you’ll start to hear it everywhere.
How often do you hear ‘Good Boy, Good girl” and why do parents say it? I’d love for you to comment.