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Mommy Musings: Thoughts and Opinions, PROJECT ME

How To Raise Kids That Are Not Praise Junkies

If you follow my blog you may know that I am currently working on me, and as I work on me, and working on being a better parent is part of that.  I hope to share with you some of the nuggets of wisdom I gain along my quest.  This article is about one of them.  I hope you enjoy.

I have read a million articles about how to use praise/rewards for your children rather than straight out discipline.  However, I never realized that by using praise incorrectly I could be raising my kids to be so focussed on “winning” the forget that it’s about having fun playing the game.

When it comes to me I have to say, I am definitely all about results.  I have to be the best at everything, no matter what.  What’s worse is that I will often do what ever it takes to be the best, even if it means doing something wrong like sacrificing my own health or well-being or negatively impacting others.  While being like this has benefitted me in my life, I know that it is not the right way to live, and I have toned it down over the years.

It never occurred to me that I was raising my children to be just like me.  Firstly, because I didn’t think it was something that could be taught.  I figured it was just my personality/ brain chemistry that made me the way I was.  Secondly, I thought that by using praise and rewards to help influence my children rather than fear and punishment I was raising my children properly.  It never occurred to me that praise can actually be detrimental if you give it in the wrong way.

Focussing on the effort instead of the outcome.

When my son hands me a piece of paper with a bunch of scribbles on it, I felt good because I would acknowledge his master piece and tell him how beautiful it was.  In doing that, I was rewarding the final product, teaching him that its all about the end goal.  What I should have been doing is saying something like, “wow, that looks like you put a lot of effort into it” or “look at all the different colours you used to make the picture beautiful”.  It is subtle difference but in the latter I am praising the act of drawing the picture, rather than the final picture itself.  That way he can learn to take pride in his efforts, rather than the final accomplishment.

Giving Praise Along The Way

When I would ask my son to clean up his toys, I would wait, and then when he was finished, I would thank him. “Great job buddy, thanks for cleaning up all your toys”.  Instead, a better way to do it could be to watch him and nodding approvingly, or give words of encouragement.  Then when he is finished, ask him about what he did.  “Wow, all the toys are away.  Did you figure out where everything goes?”  This way, they are taking pride in describing to you the journey of cleaning their toys rather than in just the final outcome.

Focus on “you did” instead of “I like”

Again, turn things inwards on your child.  Let them take pride in what they did.  By focussing on what you like, ie, the finished product, it teaches them to look towards others for praise and positive reinforcement rather than taking pride in their own efforts. For example, instead of  saying “I like that you cleaned up your room” which could send the signal that “mommy likes me only when I am being good” etc., say “You cleaned up all the toys! The room looks so clean and beautiful! Thank you!

Say Thank You

Rather than the generic “good job” saying thank you conveys gratitude more than praise, which will help your children to value the jobs they did, rather than looking for the praise at the end.  While you are at it, always try to be specific in your types of praise.  Kids really value the specificity because it shows that you are really focussed on them and paying attention to what they are doing.  They will feel more empowered.

I hope you find some of these tips useful.  If you would like more information please read some of the articles I read.

Happy Parenting!

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About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


27 thoughts on “How To Raise Kids That Are Not Praise Junkies

  1. That was really insightful. I bet a lot of managers could get more out of their employees by making these changes too!

    I will say, the first time I ran a big race, I was the second to last person to finish. I was so disappointed in myself. My husband though pointed out to me that where I finished didn’t matter because I DID finish, something in itself that should be the focus of the accomplishment. That experience really helped push down my competitive side. I have a lot of running friends. They all run further and faster but in the end, we are all running the same race and accomplishing our own goals is what matters. 🙂

    Posted by Heather C | January 10, 2014, 8:02 am
    • Thank you for the comment Heather and I agree with your husband you are a hero just for running the race. It is so hard not to compare ourselves to others, especially with social media letting us know too much about everyone to compare ourselves but not enough to know the whole story. I couldn’t run a race to save my life! Cheers

      Posted by Shannon | January 10, 2014, 1:24 pm
  2. Love the beautifully written and inspiring article, Shannon. These are very subtle difference in the way we interact with our kids, but can have such a huge impact on how they perceive themselves! One of the best things we can do as parents is work on *ourselves* first and I can see how much effort you are putting into this. It’s a long and sometimes difficult journey, but in the end always, always well worth it — congratulations on starting this journey and good luck with finding success and satisfaction in every step of it 🙂

    Posted by Sumitha (@afineparent) | January 10, 2014, 9:37 am
    • Thank you so much for the insightful comment and the compliment. I find you so inspiring and have been telling everyone about your site. I am humbled that you would visit my little blog. Namaste 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | January 10, 2014, 1:27 pm
  3. This is so true and indeed very hard to do at first. And I totally agree with Heather, can you just imagine the rise in productivity if managers and bosses used the same principle towards their employees!

    Posted by mommytrainingwheels | January 10, 2014, 12:34 pm
  4. Great post! Yes, specific praise is best and we need to keep the end goal in sight: intrinsic motivation. For example, praising one’s toddler for using the potty is a great way to increase the positive behavior but eventually, they are intrinsically motivated and reinforced for being independent in this area. This is a very important topic in these days of excessive praise. Thank you!

    Posted by Cate Pane: The Clear Parent | January 10, 2014, 4:50 pm
  5. Have you heard of the book “Punished By Rewards”? It’s a part parenting/part corporate management book on the psychology of rewards. I nodded most of the way through (and then, um, continued to use punishments and rewards – I mean desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, right?). It gels well with what you describe here – giving specific feedback, focussing on learning rather than winning, building internal motivation rather than relying on external motivation.

    (My mother used to say we should behave because it’s the right thing to do, not because we were hoping to get a sticker and without fail my father would add, “That’s right! In this house, we expect you to be good for nothing!”)

    Posted by Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist | January 11, 2014, 4:01 am
    • Lol that’s funny. Thanks for letting me know about the book, I will have to check it out. I totally agree, no one is perfect and we all have times we do what we need to, which is not always the same as what we should do. I just don’t want my kids to be like me, where feel like I need constant validation or I lose my self esteem. I am working on it, but it’s tough. Thanks so much for reading 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | January 11, 2014, 10:39 am
    • Bronwyn, Love the “In this house we expect you to be good for nothing” quote… So funny 🙂

      Shannon, I haven’t had the chance to read “Punished by Rewards” but here is an article by the author of that book (Dr. Alfie Kohn) that was an eye opener for me and I sometimes return to it for guidance – – I think you might like it.

      Posted by afineparent | January 11, 2014, 10:54 am
      • Thank you so much! I am always looking for good sources of information (inspite if the quantity, there is not always quality) and I will definitely check it out.

        Posted by Shannon | January 11, 2014, 10:59 am
  6. Great article! This is something I really want to focus on as a parent. I see the detrimental effects of too much praise on my students (I’m a secondary English teacher). Some students do things just for the reward (the grade) and don’t care about the process. It’s the students who enjoy the challenge and the journey, as well as the outcome, rather than the numerical grade who really impress me. They’re such a pleasure to teach. As a parent, however, it’s a bit different, as it’s so easy just to say ‘well done’ or ‘I’m proud of you’. Luckily, my two little ones are only 7 weeks old so I can make an effort to follow your leads now.

    Posted by claireelizabethwood | January 11, 2014, 10:46 pm
    • Thanks so much for your comment and congratulations on your 7 week olds. It seems like just yesterday mine were that small, it goes by so fast. With the experience of a teacher you already have a head start as a parent. Since mine are young too I still have a lot to figure out myself but it’s one day at a time. Really, they are the ones who teach me. Cheers.

      Posted by Shannon | January 11, 2014, 10:51 pm
  7. Reblogged this on wiseandboldlittlesouls and commented:
    I totally agree with this article and really hope to raise children that don’t just do things for praise.

    Posted by twinnies13 | January 12, 2014, 4:09 am
  8. Food for thought!!

    Posted by linbritt | January 14, 2014, 8:18 am
  9. this is pretty much exactly what I want to keep in mind for my future kid. Thanks!

    Posted by anotherjen | January 23, 2014, 10:20 am
  10. I completely agree! I will try to do this more!

    Posted by Mom 2 54321 | January 30, 2014, 2:13 pm
  11. That was quite lovely and informative. I have a two year daughter and I’m going to employ some of these. Thanks!

    Posted by IMSTILLAKID | February 3, 2014, 5:14 pm


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