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'Descriptive praise' 'Good' or not Good?

(13 Posts)
singinintherain Thu 18-Apr-13 14:31:23

I have been reading 'How to Talk so Children Will Listen' etc, and have been really impressed with most of it.

I am really stuck on their idea that you shouldn't say (i.e. to a child who is painting) 'Great!' and instead say 'You're using so many colours' or something instead. Their idea is that descriptive praise will mean more to the child and that if you say 'good' you can cancel it out too easily by saying 'bad'. Whereas if you say 'That's very neat' or 'You did that so carefully' they will store these things up.

The thing is, it takes so much longer to say these things! And my brain can't keep up, especially when juggling a 3 and a 1 year old. Is it so bad to say 'well done' and 'good'?!

rrreow Thu 18-Apr-13 15:43:37

It comes with practice. I've read the book twice now and I try to continuously remind myself. It's becoming much more natural to me now. I also see it as a fun challenge, because it actually encourages me to look beyond the surface of just 'good' or 'bad'. So I'm not just thinking on a level of 'is this good or bad?' but rather I'm thinking more about what he's doing, how he's doing it, whether it's something I want to encourage or not.

However, I don't think there's anything wrong with saying 'Well done'. I use that phrase a lot (in my own language though) and tend to just follow it up with something descriptive. 'Well done, you finished the puzzle all by yourself!' I also use 'Thank you' in conjunction with descriptive praise a lot: 'Thank you for throwing that in the bin.' 'Thank you for putting the plate away.'

teaparties Thu 18-Apr-13 15:55:45

I haven't read the book (yet - DD is only 14 months) but am a trainee teacher and have been given similar advise about praise. Something I've found comes quite easily is to simply add to good. So, 'Good listening' or 'Good tidying' etc. and then, at times when you are sitting playing/ more focused- use phrases as you described.

singinintherain Thu 18-Apr-13 16:42:37

So is it ok to say good if you add something, i.e. 'good listening?' I have been doing this and keep thinking, eeek, I'm not saying the right thing!

rrreow Thu 18-Apr-13 17:02:43

singinintherain there is no right or wrong way. It's just a decision you make with regards to how you want to parent and how you want to talk to your kids. I happen to agree with the descriptive praise argument, but I know there are plenty of people who don't and that's fine too. Or have a middle ground. Personally I think it's helpful if the child knows what it is they've done well or what it is you're not pleased with.

singinintherain Thu 18-Apr-13 21:53:59

Thanks rrreow. I don't think I have always that much confidence in what I am doing, so tend to stick a bit rigidly to parenting books that seem to offer good guidelines.

Another thing, the giving of 2 choices, which worked so well when I first started it with my 3 year old, has now worn off, 'Do you want to put your shoes on fast or slow?'
'No'
'Shall we put them on at the top of the stairs or at the bottom'
'Not nuffin.'
'Upside down or the right way round?'
'No, I want to cut my shoes into pieces, I hate them'
'Mama smiling or weeping?'

Argh!

MaryRobinson Thu 18-Apr-13 23:06:07

Unconditional Parenting suggests that both are bad, and that engaging neutrally is better and doesn't turn your children into praise junkies.

So, "what's happening in your picture?" "Is that mum?" "We had great fun at...activity"[that is being drawn] etc.

singinintherain Fri 19-Apr-13 08:37:42

But what if you are trying to encourage the right sort of behaviour? How can you engage neutrally? 'You were very kind to your sister' for example, for times for when I have caught my son, for once, not bashing her over the head. As a teacher I have always used praise (and if you're ruling out stickers, reward charts, naughty step etc, you need something!) Kids need a bit of a pointer.

DeWe Fri 19-Apr-13 09:45:51

Singing there does come a time when you do need to say "I'm sorry you don't want your shoes on, but they have to go on-now!"

If I negotiated with ds to put his shoes on for school we would get therein time for pick up at the end of the day.

I find the need to get them on before I've counted to 3, or if I'm more patient, I bet you can't get them on before I've counted to 10, at times is what has to be done.

singinintherain Fri 19-Apr-13 13:11:52

Sensible advice! To go back to the idea of 'praise junkies' I have been pondering whether if you take praise to mean any kind of approval; does it follow that you are not allowed to smile/laugh/hug your child if they do something clever/funny/charming? Because that would make them want more smiles, laughs, hugs. (I'm assuming UP people think kids should do stuff for their own fulfilment and not to please their parents) If so Unconditional Parenting runs the risk of being quite a cold approach.

MaryRobinson Mon 22-Apr-13 10:17:04

I think UP comes at it from a different angle.
Firstly familys are not classrooms, or 'real Life' they are/should be a place where children experience their parent's love unconditionally.
Smiles/Laughing/hugs are available on demand, like water from an (unmetered) tap.

'Praise Junkies' is more the 'good boy'/'nice sharing'/'good job'

So bashing over the head might be. ' Can I have The-bashing-Thing' 'That's not safe darling' it can even be an 'I caught you' look followed by a hug, and 'Shall we all play nicely together now'

UP tries to be very low key and de-escalating.

lljkk Mon 22-Apr-13 10:30:45

Is it so bad to say 'well done' and 'good'

Not bad at all, but it can be more useful to be specific about exactly what you liked or appreciated. Under UP I don't think you can tell child that you liked something they did, that's way too much like praising them. (Heaven Forbid you should overtly try to shape the person your child will become.)

Interesting you describe UP as cold. I think of cold as unpleasant and UP is not really anything when it comes to behaviour or actions, very neutral unemotional responses called for (only robots need apply?). But you can still give hugs and do loving actions rest of the time.

I don't think of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen... as UP at all.

MaryRobinson Mon 22-Apr-13 11:27:54

lljkk in terms of overt shaping, I utterly disagree with you. UP says we model the behaviour we want: whether it is nice table manners; being kind; working hard; not over reacting to situations.

Can you give an example where you think overt shaping is good but where the parent shouldn't carry out that activity themselves?

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