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is too much praise bad?

(37 Posts)
mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 17:15:43

had HUGE row with OH yesterday because he sees my refusal to inflate SD's (8) abilities as me being horrid and mean to her.

What happened was this: we were out for a meal, and a family friend said to her 'I bet you are good at sport, aren't you?' and my SD said 'mmm, no...' and I said I 'ummmmm not really' and my OH said "Yes, she's brilliant at sport." and then had a right go at me in front of family friend for not being encouraging. In fact SD as she admits hates sport, wont catch a ball, and sees all sport as not being 'girly' and just generally makes no effort, moans all the time if she has to even walk anywhere...

This is part of an ongoing problem with us - OH absolutely lavishes praise upon his DD (an only child), about anything and everything, which I think just devalues the praise and is giving her totally unrealistic ideas about her abilities - which are ... at best mediocre (sorry SD).

I think he is turning her into a very conceited child and also into a praise junky - she just can't live without it and demands it constantly (e.g. i'm really good at drawing aren't I? do you like this I did, it's great isn't it? did you see me, aren't I the just best? i'm just so good at this, aren't I? i look so cool/cute in this don't I? I'm really beautiful, aren't I? everyone says I could be a model, don't they dad? All the boys want to be my boyfriend etc etc it's just constant all day long).

My policy has always been praise where praise is due and encourage her to do her best, and better herself where she can and not to give her unrealistic ideas about her abilities and talents ...

I know he thinks he's being kind and loving but I just think he's setting her up for awful disappointment, to not have any real sense of that golden glow you get when YOU know yourself when you have done something really well....

WTF? Am I doing this wrong? Should you tell children they are wonderful at everything regardless?

meemarsgotabrandnewbump Thu 30-Jul-09 17:20:39

I think the problem was that you didn't just not praise her. You actually put her down a bit by saying 'ummm not really'.

Sometimes praise is not just about reward for what they are good at but encouragement to do well.

chegirl Thu 30-Jul-09 17:33:42

I think praise can be overdone. Children are not idiots and know when they are being flattered (once they are over about 4).

But I dont think there is anything wrong with finding something positive i.e. you played really well in that game at Easter, or She is not particularly sporty but has fantastic balance.

I dont think that makes children conceited, it gives them confidence.

I am not keen on over praised children either it doesnt help them learn or improve particularly but there is a fine line.

juuule Thu 30-Jul-09 17:35:50

"My policy has always been praise where praise is due and encourage her to do her best, "

That sounds about right. BUT even if she isn't great at sport saying 'ummmmm not really' could be reinforcing the idea that sport isn't for her.
Does she try at sport? Does she just not like it? Might it have been more diplomatic to say something like 'She tries and is improving'? or 'Shes's not keen but could probably do well if she found something she's interested in'? or something along those lines but shorter. Not just seeming confirmation that she's rubbish at sport.

Perhaps your boyfriend is trying to compensate for your put-downs?

seeker Thu 30-Jul-09 17:37:18

I do think it's different for a step mother too - maybe you ought to step back a little here?

hana Thu 30-Jul-09 17:38:25

well I wouldn't have answered for a child that age, and certainly wouldn't have said what you said.

but praise has a time and a place and it seems she's getting too much of it - not her fault though, is it?

Pitchounette Thu 30-Jul-09 17:38:27

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Pitchounette Thu 30-Jul-09 17:39:49

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edam Thu 30-Jul-09 17:57:33

Agree you made a strategic error by stepping in. Let dd answer for herself, or your dh answer if dd doesn't. As a stepmum you really do have to take care not to put your stepchild down. You can avoid it without having to pretend that she's the world champion at everything.

Don't get into some battle with dh where he over-eggs dd and you retaliate by criticising her.

I think the advice is that praise should be specific - so not 'you are great' or 'good girl' but 'I really like the way you used blue in that painting' or 'I could see you were trying really hard to find your balance'. And praise effort, not necessarily achievement.

mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 18:04:00

oh ... dear ....

well i wasn't trying to put her down, certainly. i'm just a blunt tell it like it is person. if someone told me i was terrible at physics or car maintenance or knitting i'd be the first to agree - at any age.

but she is is bad at sport and a terrible loser and just doesn't seem to want to try despite a lot of encouragement, because she has decided that sport is something that 'girly girls' just don't do - and this is something her teachers raised with us at the last parents evening. i've tried all sorts of tactics including telling her how much her favourite pop stars and high school musical actresses probably spend doing exercise to get their lovely skin and bods, but ... no go.

i wish i could step back from it seeker, but i'm the only mum she's got right now and have full time care of her.

meemarsgotabrandnewbump Thu 30-Jul-09 18:11:04

I think maybe she has become a bit sensitive about the sport issue. Is it something that is particularly important to you and your DP, because it sounds like you are making a fair bit of effort encouraging her to like sport.

Some kids just arent' sporty. Are there things she can do that will give her enough excercise that aren't necessarily 'sports'. What about dance classes - very girly, or does she enjoy just going to the pool for a play, rather than swimming lessons?

mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 18:13:53

btw i see praise and encouragement as two very distinct things, and i believe that i give a healthy amount of encouragement and praise where it's due.

i invest a lot of time and effort into SD, she's had a rocky start because of the neglect problems with her mum, and then her dad spoiled her rotten after getting custody ... and i have to tread quite a tough line i feel to get her behaviour sorted out.

having said that, we have story and cuddle every night before bed, and we both say 'i love you' often.

you wouldn't believe how much she's improved and how much happier she's been since i moved in two years ago, but sometimes i feel it just all gets chucked back in my face by OH because i don't parent in the same over-doting way that he does.

mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 18:16:31

yes, the sport issue is sensitive because OH is good at sport and really wants her to be like him (rather than like her BM)

it's the same with art too

I said to him today that i think he should stop telling her how good at sport and art she is when she isn't, because he should just allow her to be herself, and not feel she's got to please him by being like him...

holdingittogether Thu 30-Jul-09 18:24:26

Praise is vital for children. But as others has said be specific and praise effort as much as what they have actually achieved. You can put a positive spin on things with out giving them a big head and don't compare them to others. Never tell them they are the best in the class for example. They might have made a picture or written a story and it might not be anymore than average but it is still very important to praise." Wow you must have tried so hard on this, must have taken you ages. I like the way you.....

holdingittogether Thu 30-Jul-09 18:30:06

Reading your latest post I think your dh has put her up on a bit of a pedestal hasn't he. Is she an only child?

mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 18:35:33

it's all such a learning curve being a parent ... especially when you're thrown in at the deep end like I was ...

maybe my tactics ARE all wrong

i will think long and hard as to whether I AM being too blunt and not diplomatic enough ... sad

mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 18:36:42

yes holdingittogether, she is an only child

msled Thu 30-Jul-09 18:42:12

I posted on your other thread. I think you were wrong to butt in with a put-down in front of someone else. Not nice, not necessary. Also you gave a global criticism - 'not really' - instead of something like, 'I don't think she really enjoys it' or 'she could be good - she's a fast runner' or 'what do you think Sarah? (or whatever her name is).
If she answers for herself, I don't see why you need to say anything really.

msled Thu 30-Jul-09 18:42:40

I hate sport. I don't think it is a huge deal.

Grammaticus Thu 30-Jul-09 18:44:02

Even if you are a bit blunt (and I'm not saying you are), you've definitely got the right idea behind it which is more than can be said for your OH who is obviously over-praising her.

Can you find a shared activity to enjoy with her and get satisfaction together? Maybe you have other children which would make that impractical.

itchyandscratchy Thu 30-Jul-09 18:46:05

Tbh, she sounds a little bit insecure, rather than conceited. and your dh sounds like he's trying to compensate for whatever situation has brought her to you both without her mum being on the scene?

I know what you mean about 'telling it how it is' and being honest but with kids, esp those who are insecure, is not always the best policy. I think there could be a compromise between you and your dh, in that he tones it down a bit and you step it up a bit (no pun intended grin).

I'm a teacher and also have 2dds. I'm very conscious to give lots of praise to the kids I teach, many of which have issues with confidence. I give lots of praise when I'm teaching, praise that's appropriate to their ability and effort. Self esteem is a very precious thing and easily lost.

And I lavish praise on the dds but I also let them know when things need doing better: dd1 made a Thank you card for friends of ours who bought her a present recently. She'd coloured it in messily and crossed words out. I know she's good at art and writing so I told her it wasn't good enough, as in "You're so good at drawing and colouring usually - what's gone wrong here? Can you do a nicer one now, like you normally do?"

Honesty - but with a positive spin, as holdingittogether so aptly calls it- is an excellent idea. And always praise for effort made.

holdingittogether Thu 30-Jul-09 18:46:26

The only reason i asked about only child was because I guess with an only child there is just one child to absorb all the wants and aims and aspirations you have for your children. Praise and positive language are essential but telling your child they are the best, as in better than everybody else, is setting them up for a very nasty fall I think.

msled Thu 30-Jul-09 18:47:33

Praise effort all the time. And I do think there is something in the adage, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 18:53:09

ah grammaticus, she and I do loads and loads of nice and fun things together: cooking, makeovers and hairdos, shopping, housework, tickling, stories ... but not the long walks I love to go on because she moans too much and asks to be carried!!!

i don't have any kids of my own and she lives with us full time so she gets my undivided attention on a daily basis (when I'm not working)

yes, msled, i probably should have just kept my mouth shut, in hindsight

I really wasn't trying to put her down, I was agreeing with her when she looked at me. NB the other person is an old friend who is pretty much part of the family and who stays with us a few times a month so I guess i just behaved as if it was just family

mrshibbins Thu 30-Jul-09 19:02:26

strewth, sometimes it feels like you need to a cross between Henry Kissinger and a rhino to be a good mum-type-parent ... it's not easy being a full time step mum and i find it often quite an uphill struggle after my previously peaceful and selfish existence. i never knew it would be quite as hard as this.

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