Kids don’t need praise

This seems to be an idea on the rise: “How Not to Talk to Your Kids: the inverse power of praise.”

What we want for our kids (and for ourselves) is to encourage meaningful, positive interaction with their environments.  This is the same thing as being productive, the same thing as telling the truth, and the same thing as being generous and considerate with others.

This should be a low-cost attitude.  Yet, it seems that praise raises the stakes on kids (and for those of us who were praised as children). The goodness of their interactions with their environment, which include sharing, toileting, ball-throwing, or even playing, becomes conditional on OUR saying their are good.

And so begins the need for extrinsic validation for one’s sense of self-worth.  Alfie Kohn elaborates:

“Good job!” is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviors that can be seen and measured. Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise, or as a way of making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future.

The idea that this relates to fear, boredom, and paralysis in the face of reality’s challenges isn’t much of a leap.


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