It's been a year and a half since I posted this topic. We are still dealing with it in our house, now more than ever. I thought it was worth revisiting.
Too Much Praise?
Every so often the topic of "are we praising our children too much?" comes up in the media. I used to turn my nose up whenever I heard/read about the new studies. Too much praise? Is that even possible?
Older and wiser.... gotta love life's little lessons.
When Paige was born and we had to constantly work with her to reach even the smallest of milestones, praise was dripping from the walls in our house. We would encourage and bribe her to get through therapy and all of the "homework" that hubby and I had to do with her. When she would even barely respond, we would praise the heck out of her.
When she got a little older and started to work on large motor skills (crawling, standing, etc), more and more praise would be needed to get her going.
Then came speech. Even more and more praise was needed.
Fine motor skills.... "Oh Paige, that is the most beautiful purple scribble picture I have ever seen."
She needed the praise and we had no problems giving it to her. I used to think to myself, "those studies only apply to typical kids. What harm could there possibly be in giving her praise?"
Well, we've created a praise junkie.
We realized this a few years ago but had no idea what to do about it. We still don't. Something has to be done though. lol
She is finally trying to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. If you live on our street, you already know this. Actually, if you live in our town you already know this. She can be heard screaming with frustration from miles away. She has been working on for quite a few nights now.
After a particularly hard night of trying, she was finally able to push one pedal and then get her second foot onto the other pedal. Then she freaked out because both feet were off the ground. But, she was so incredibly proud of herself, and so were we. We clapped along with her and told her "great job trying!"
The next morning she asked me "Are you proud of me?", to which I responded, "You did a good job last night getting both feet on the pedals. I know how hard that was for you." Paige's response, "Good? That's all I get, just the word 'good'? Wasn't I just the greatest you've ever seen?" After we went back and forth about how being 'good' meant something special and how we were so happy to see how proud she was for herself, she just stormed off yelling something about me not understanding how hard it was to ride a bike and how I should have told her that she was the greatest. Geesh.
The same sort of conversation can be heard after artwork too. She will say that she is going to color something, sit and scribble for 2 minutes and then expect us to call her Van Gogh. Now we just say things like, "I love all of the colors you used." or "Can you tell me what you were thinking about when you were creating this?" It's never good enough and she will say things like, "don't you like what I've made?"
She is attending art camp this summer, taught by a very accomplished artist (who also happens to be her piano teacher). After picking her up last week she told me that she is upset with Mrs. X because Mrs. X wouldn't let her do the art piece the way she wanted to. She went on to tell me, "Mrs. X said that some types of art are not open for free expression and have to be aesthetically pleasing to ones eye. Well it was pleasing to my eye but she refused to tell me that my art looked great. I don't like art camp anymore!" Oh boy.
If I could go back in time, I am not sure what I could do differently with that little girl who needed so much encouragement and praise to reach her milestones.
But I know one thing, I would have wiped my praise dripping walls sooner to avoid the hurt feelings she is experiencing now.
***** 7/26/07 UPDATE*****
Paige can now ride a bike!! Woo Hoo!! Hubby figured out that she was always starting from a dead stop. He told her to start rolling first and then put her feet on the pedals. It worked like magic. We took her to an empty parking lot and let her ride for a while tonight. She is so proud of herself. That's the best part! I love seeing her truly happy. I still have tears in my eyes as I type this. What a big day!!!
****** 2/8/09 UPDATE*****
The constant need for excessive praise has not diminished. Now that we homeschool, the issue is in front of us daily. If she completes a math problem correctly, she expects me to jump up and down in a fit of pure joy. Me telling her, "good job" is not only NOT good enough, it sends her into a bad attitude and causes her to stop trying hard in math. The same goes for anything she does.
The other day I caught myself over praising Tyler when he was showing me that he knew his letters. I stopped right away and simply told him "great job buddy." As soon as I walked away from his easel Paige swooped in and started praising him over and over again. It was so over the top that Tyler yelled at her to "move sister!".
It may seem silly to some people that too much praise can be detrimental. But I wonder, as she gets older, where will she turn to find that praise? If I can't help her to understand that she doesn't need constant praise in order to motivate herself to do something, how will she succeed in life?