Monday, April 11, 2011

Parenting class (take two) night three

I want to start by saying I had emailed our teacher some questions before the class about her thoughts on Alfie Kohn's work on the harmful effects of praise. She responded to say she was thinking about it, basically, and would talk about it at class. I was so bummed she didn't, though. We may get to chat about it next week.

Our book does make mention of some of these tools being short-term ways to help improve pretty difficult behavior. I have to say the idea of praising my children for everything they do is getting a little exhausting-- but I HAVE seen overall improvement in many areas. The girls do seem to react to it and will often beam ear to ear when they hear we've noticed something lovely they have done. On the other hand, the next chapter of our book is all about creating "sticker charts" and oh my, it is making my skin crawl. I don't know if I can do it. I did try it, once, a while ago, with zero success. Of course, I didn't do it at all the way the book is suggesting (consistent, small, measurable goals is the key).

I have to keep reminding myself that MOST children don't need such things. That the parents in this class are dealing with a group of kids who have more issues than the usual kid. We are working hard at bringing them to a more "neutral" place. We are pulling out all sorts of tools to get them to a place where we no longer have to give them such heavy reinforcements.

So, back to what we really discussed in class. We talked about creating narratives for our children. Not only saying things like "I noticed that you were able to share all of your Barbies with your sister" but also provide narrative along the lines of "Remember last week when you shared your Barbies, too?" in order to start painting a bigger picture and remind our children of the wonderful things they do and what they are capable of.

We discussed keeping our praise specific and also to notice our child's small steps towards changing negative behavior that we want to In addition we kept talking more about appreciating and praising ourselves and our partners and our children, with the goal being to create an atmosphere of appreciation in our family.

We read a bit about creating a healthy home life, as well, and it brought up various issues such as not over-scheduling our children's lives, providing enough touch for our children, paying attention to our children's sleep habits and, my personal favorite: model the emotional maturity you want from your child. This is going to be my new parenting motto.

Model the emotional maturity you want from your child. Talk about leading by example.


  1. OMG, you gotta re-read that! Check it out... I've read that instead of praising children, you should just let them know that you noticed _____. So a child lights up with even the slightest "I noticed you got new shoes." It isn't praise, just attention. Honestly, it isn't even positive or negative, just fact.

    So when you say, "I noticed that you were able to share all of your Barbies with your sister" - you're only noticing and letting them know that you did. It isn't actually praise.

    So while your teacher may or may not be all that familiar with A. Kohn, the solution appears to already be here. :-)

    I hope you don't mind my commenting all the time. Sometimes I feel like I must seem like I'm nosey or something. I've come to care about your struggles with Iris, even though I can not specifically relate. I hope I serve as an objective bystander, a fellow parent... that cares. :-)

  2. I love your comments, thank you!

    I had a similar feeling about the "observations". In class we call them praise, and many of them DO say "good job sharing your Barbies!" or "I am so happy you shared your Barbies!" which are anti-Kohn, but I try to stick to more noticing.

    Off to fix my lost paragraphs . . .


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