Positive Parenting Has a Dark Side
Let me explain. First with a story that doesn’t explain the unintended consequence of positive parenting. Then I’ll get to the point.
I’m not around little kids that often in the winter months. That’s when I live in West Palm Beach Florida, in a condo, next to a University, and close to the business district. I work from home and I don’t get out much. My most regular outings are when I go to synagogue. Palm Beach, doesn’t have many young families, so I was surprised when a little girl started showing up to services recently.
Time Out for Cleanliness
Bella is an adorable six-year old, with a brilliant imagination, personality plus and ten times more smarts than many of the old folk in my community. We are friends. After worship we are having a meal together. Bella drops some food on her cute little pink dress, and immediately becomes worried. She tells me that she will get in trouble when her Daddy sees, so she tries to clean off the spot with her Sprite. I reassure her, like any grandma would do, that her Daddy will understand. It’s an accident.
“No really, I’ll have to have a time-out if I get my clothes dirty, he told me that really.” After the meal, her Dad comes to get her, sees the faint outline of the spot, and (very nicely) says: “Bella, you must be more careful with your new dress, it’s difficult to get stains out of pink.”
So that’s how it goes in Bella’s family, neatness counts.
Raising a Generation of Praise Junkies
I did some volunteer work at an agency called Family Matters. It’s a leadership development organization that encourages positive parenting. They offer a course called: Principles of Leadership. There’s some good advice to be gained from POL: Be clear, direct and directive. And there’s some bad advice too: Eliminate words from your vocabulary that are negative or weak. No, “but,”“just,” or “can’t” allowed. Try it. It isn’t easy and doesn’t make much sense. But, (see I’m doing it and it DOES make sense) the advice that was really startling; was about praising children— don’t do it.
Apparently, it’s not a new idea. Some experts fear, we’re raising a generation of praise junkies.
Stop Saying Good Job
Alfie Kohn, is one of those experts. He has written eleven books and published numerous articles. Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!” first appeared in Young Children in 2001, it’s a masterpiece of common sense. Kohn explains how we’re actually stealing our child’s pleasure, manipulating them, reducing their achievement and causing them to lose interest in their activities, with too much praise.
Insert Praise [Here]
I learn something new all the time. Hanging out with Bella, reminds me about the simple value of taking good care of what we have. It also causes me to reflect on my notions about positive parenting which can mean doling out a lot of praise. Which opens me up to re-examine praise. I offer praise to God constantly, it does me good and I’m pretty sure God’s Ok with it too.
But when it comes to little children, I’m going to take Alfie Kohn’s lead, and the expectations set by Bella’s dad. There is One who is above us all, who deserves the praise we offer, any time and without restraint.
– Susan Diamond, Prayables
Prayer for Children
We raise our faces to You.
You who has sustained
with the steadiness of Your love,
with the strength of Your wisdom.
You are the blood that unites us.
You are the pulse that revives us.
You are where we begin,
where we end,
where we are.
I look to You
with soul-bursting gratitude
for the blessing of family
and the gift of Your Presence
within and around us.
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