Norah is driving me crazy. There. I said it. A recent phenomenon, 5 bazillion times a day, she says, “watch this, mommy.” I was changing Cedar’s diaper last night and she wanted me to “look at this” 7 times! And it was only to show me the many different ways she could carry a stuffed frog.
Exasperation. My child is becoming a praise junkie.
Then, inspiration. I created this issue. I’ve been trying to over-compensate (since I’m pretty involved with Cedar’s care just now) by over-praising her. And it is easier to praise her than to become involved in what she is doing by asking open-ended questions. Really, I’ve been patting her on the head and tossing her a scooby snack.
I used to be careful about praise. I tried to avoid “good job” which isn’t a description anyway; it is a judgement according to Alfie Kohn. If Norah drew a picture of an apple, instead of saying “oh that is amazing,” I would try to remember to ask a thoughtful question like “is it a red apple or a green apple?” There is plenty of research that shows the more a student is praised, the more tentative and less creative he or she becomes.
Don’t get me wrong–I think Norah is quite an impressive child. And I feel that praise has a place for sure. But I want to be careful of three things:
1) Creating a condition. I don’t want her to feel she must perform to get my love and attention.
2) Using praise as a bribe. “I like the way you put away your toys before dinner.” Kids are smart and will eventually catch on to that carrot anyway.
3) Praising too much and/or for trivial things. Lately I sound like a cheerleader: “Awesome, you brushed your teeth. High five! You’re so cool.”
And the result of this last one? “Mom, watch this!”
I know, I know. There are worse things I could do. And I know it is age-appropriate for her to be a bit of a showboat. However, I also know I’ve become her supplier.
So my goal this week is to go easy on the positive reinforcement. I’ll leave that for the grandparents. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to do my yearly read of Unconditional Parenting.