‘Good job!’ vs. ‘You did it!’ or praising vs. acknowledging

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Praising children

Today, on parenting, we chose to write about a matter that caught our attention even before we became parents: praising children. We accidentally observed the fact that many people with children use the phrase ‘Good job!’ to praise their little ones. And moreover, they use it a lot. The child says ‘Thank you!’, the parent responds with ‘Good job!’. The child eats his food or pees on the potty, the parent responds with ‘Good job!’. And so on. We felt that the child was manipulated with this ‘Good job!’ phrase to do whatever their parents want. To express this in a rougher manner, the child seemed to be treated and trained like a puppy eagerly waiting for its treat.

When we found out that we’re going to be parents, we started to read a lot about parenting. Moreover, we started searching for different parenting models, methods and tools. We did that because we wanted the best for our little baby girl. We also made a bit of a research on praising children. This is how we ended up buying Alfie Kohn‘s book, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. After we read it, we decided to apply his ideas related to the subject. We liked his approach on praise and agreed that praise should be replaced with unconditional support. Children need to grow into healthy, caring and responsible people.

Reading Kohn’s article: Five Reasons to Stop Saying ‘Good Job!’, we must say that we are on the same wavelength with the author. Praise is a manipulative way to deal with our children. It is a simple way to make our lives, as parents, a little easier.

We decided that we’ll try to raise our daughter to be independent and in control of her actions. We want to help her stay excited about all the things she’s doing or she plans to achieve on her own. This instead of making her, constantly, search for our approval in every action she takes.

RIE Parenting Approach

Furthermore, the RIE approach on this matter states that you should not praise your children (particularly the young ones). You should acknowledge and highlight the things they did. As an example, if your baby walked by himself for the first time, it’s enough to say ‘You walked to me by yourself!’ or, simply, ‘You did it!’. The message he`ll get is clear enough: ‘I did this by myself!’.

We found great resources about this subject in Magda Gerber’s book: Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities and in Janet Lansbury’s book: Elevating Child Care: A Guide To Respectful Parenting. Both RIE authors above offer great alternatives to praise and means to encourage children to be aware of their own accomplishments, to be self confident, to protect their inner motivation and not to depend on others for validation.

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