Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's Wrong with "Good Girl"?

This is some thing that I've asked myself several times since my oldest was doing things that would warrant a "good girl!" It runkles me (that is a me). I didn't like it. I don't like it. I've personally never used it for that reason.

I recently read this article from the Natural Child Project. Which, I love that site, but some times it's just a little TOO much for me...My conservative fundamentalist background makes it hard to swallow certain terms some times. Yes, probably just me.

Anyway the article still left me scratching my head a little bit. I mean I GOT it, but not fully until I started reading "Easy to Love Difficult to Discipline" by Becky Bailey Ph.D, loving it! She's talking about praise in her chapter on "encouragement" and a few things stood out to me.

Interesting fact #1
"The National Family institute reported that the average American child spends 12.5 minutes each day communicating with her parents. Of that time 8.5 minutes are spent on corrections, criticisms, or arguments. A University of Iowa study revealed that on average a child hears 432 negative comments daily, compared to 32 positive ones. (Hochschild 1997). This area of family life clearly needs attention." (p. 123)


Bailey goes on to discuss, on what you as the parent do in your own mind. Do you tend to build yourself up? Or tear yourself down for what you haven't done. Her point? If you change how you treat yourself you will naturally change how you treat your children.

She then goes on to ask, "Can Praise Be Discouraging?"

In short, very much so!

A few things stood out to me: "Giving too much general, all-encompassing praise can unduly burden your child, so she feels pressured to live up to unrealistic standards."

I found what she pointed out here very interesting: When you tell a child things like "You are always so sweet." "I love how you are always so kind ...and helpful" they may feel pressured to always BE this so as not to disappoint. She mentions how this will often lead to one child absolutely going to the opposite end of the spectrum to act out and SHOW that this is not the case a cry for them to see the "real me". While the other child tries to live up to this expectation.

This is my sister and me. I lived up to the praise, she went to the opposite extreme. I see this too in my husbands family: one absolutely "crazy" sister, and the other "put together" and trying her hardest be awesome and cool and fly under the radar. It's funny in both cases it was the older sisters who lashed out. And the younger sisters seeing how much hurt it caused the parents tried to live up to what their parents hoped and expected for them...Interesting.

Another thought from Bailey: "Giving too much praise that relies on value judgements teaches your child that "good" equals "pleasing others," and "bad" equals "displeasing others.""..."Young children think simplistically. We often suggest to children that they are good if they do as they are told, and they come to believe us. By extension, they also figure out that when some action an adults as requested isn't accomplished, they must be bad. Children who absorb this message can grow up feeling guilty when they slip up, as all human beings do. They may also grow up to be very judgemental and critical of others who fall short."

She goes on to talk about "judgement junkies" they grow up to be adults who are always anxious about how they are preforming. Some grow up to be unable to handle simple tasks with out some one telling them how they are doing with it, if it's "good" or what is wanted.

There is also the problem with praising for good behavior... It's a selfish thing, because you hope it will mean continued good performance in some aspect or another. But what you are really telling her is (or what many children come to conclude), "I am only lovable when I please my parents."

So things to remember: "...The process counts as much as the product." you teach this by noticing your childs efforts and small steps "not just the touch down" (she was talking about foot ball games being super boring if the fans only cheered when a touch down happened).

Do not praise by comparing...Like in Romona "I like how Susan is sitting in HER chair. Every one sit like Susan."

That builds conflict and competition NOT unity and cooperation.

So what DO we do for praise? I think the thing I've struggled with is that wanting to praise my babies is NATURAL! But I see it now (finally!) there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Bailey's advice:
1) Notice your children rather than judging them.
2)Link your child's actions to enjoyment and satisfaction rather than to tangible rewards.

"Children ask to be seen, not judged. But adults tend to judge rather than see. Your child might say, "Watch me on the monkey bars." instead of replying "look at you climbing so high,' you might say "good job, honey." Instead of describing your child's action, you have judged it."

"Judgement underlies conditional love- love that makes demands."

some examples

"Good Job Riley!" OR
"Riley, you have put your toys in the bins and your books on the shelves. Now you can find them when you want to play


"You are such a good girl." OR
"You showed your sister how to use that sorting toy. That was very helpful."


Stick to exactly what you see. Start with personal pronouns of "you" or "I notice"

I LOVED this suggestion...Ask when giving praise, "can this be recorded with a camera?", you can't record a judgement! So if your child did some thing you are excited about think about how a camera would see it and describe it that way! "Wow, you took each step one at a time and you made it all the way to the top of the ladder!"
A Camera can't see "Oh great job being nice."

So this is a bit of a scattered post but it's some thing I was super excited to really get. As for the "good girls" I am glad to say that I now have a real reason to make sure we avoid it!

Now off to enjoy the silence of babies asleep in their beds!!

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