Monday, September 23, 2013

Over praising our children

I have more than a few pet peeves.  Some might say that makes me a bitch.  I think it just makes me, well, I guess a bitch.  Oh well.

In the midst of people who drive slow in the left lane, husbands not replacing the toilet paper (who the hell just puts in on top of the old roll?!), and websites that don't offer free shipping, are the parents who praise and/or their child for everything.  Every single stupid thing.

I am all about praise when it is deserved.  When you do something that is extraordinary, you deserve to be praised.  When you do something kind for someone, you deserve to be praised.  When you go above and beyond what the expectations are, you deserve to be praised.

You do not, however, deserved to be praised for doing exactly what is expected of you.

The world just simply does not work that way.  "Becky, thank you so much for showing up to work every day.  Every single day.  You are simply amazing."  Um, no.  That pretty much never happens.  And it shouldn't.  Showing up to work is something that you have to do.  Don't f'in thank me for it.  I will think you are either stupid or completely fake.

Another example: we have all been pulled over for going too fast, but I would venture to say that none of us have been pulled over so that the cop can praise us for going the speed limit.  Wow, Ms. Bryson.  You did an amazing job going 25 and not plowing over the kids in the school zone.  Please keep up the great work and have a wonderful day!  Riiiight.

So then, why, I ask, do we do this to children?  Why do we insist on setting them up to be disappointed in life?  While that might not be your intention, overly cheerful super Mommy, it is exactly what you are doing.  You might praise little 5 year old Billy every time that he washes his hands instead of licking them after using the bathroom, but guess what?  No one else will.  What is more likely to happen is simply that he will get in trouble when he doesn't meet the basic expectations.

I literally hear this shit all of the time.  "Wow, Lyla, thank you so much for holding Mommy's hand when we cross the street.  Mommy is so impressed with what a good listener you are."  OH. MY. GOD.  Shut up.  When I was a kid, it would have been like, "you better hold Mommy's hand or your ass is going home and you are going to sit in your room."  Let's see...which of those things more closely resembles the real world?  It's a close call (insert eye roll).

Or, "wow, thank you so much for eating your fruit.  Mommy loves it when you eat your food."  Are you kidding me?  You want ME to thank YOU for eating the $5 pint of organic berries that I drove to the store to buy for you while I am sitting here eating the $2.00 pint of half-rotted pesticide-infested berries because I am too broke from YOUR berries to buy good ones for myself?  Yeah, don't hold your breath, babycakes. blood pressure goes up just thinking of these idiotic parents.

The absolute WORST part though... I have caught myself doing it a few times lately.  Which doesn't make it any better.  In fact, it makes it even more of a pet peeve because I now hate myself.

Moose has been having some trouble laying down on the changing table lately.  For some reason though, she did a good job of it the other day and I found myself saying, "Wow, Moose, thank you for laying nicely so that I can change your diaper."

As soon as the words came out, I wanted to punch myself.  Yes, Moose, thank you for allowing me the pleasure of changing the shit that has now caked onto your fat ass.  I so appreciate the honor that has been bestowed upon me.

No.  No no no.  She should not be thanked for that because it gives her the impression that she is doing me a favor or that she is doing some out of the ordinary.  Talk about the wrong message.  The right message is that she needs to lay nicely or there will be consequences.

It literally nauseates me that those idiotic words even came out of my mouth.  I have become one of the people I hate.

Wow, Moose, thank you SO much for sitting so nicely in your chair at the beautiful
beach resort that we brought you to while eating the organic food packet that we purchased
for your snacking pleasure.  I really appreciate it.

Before you get all judgey on me, let me reiterate that I am all about praise when it is due.  I think that, in the right context, it provides great encouragement and security for your child.  The right context, however, it not every time that your child draws a breath.

Plus, let's think about it logically, if you praise your child for every little thing, it will start to mean nothing.  If you told me good job for every single thing that I did, it wouldn't be special when I actually deserved the praise.  The words would become empty.

And everyone in earshot would hate you.

So, please do us all a favor, ESPECIALLY your children.  Save the praise for when they do something wonderful.  For when they help out, or speak kind words, or do something new.  Not for when they do something completely ordinary and expected like not kicking their sibling.


  1. I mostly agree with this and think you're right about the fact that in the real world our kids won't be praised for every little thing, however, I do think there's something to be said for positive reinforcement, and think it's important for kids to receive that (at least some of the time) so they learn what kind of behavior is expected. A lot of times positive reinforcement is a more effective way to ensure good behavior from kids than trying to discipline or correct bad behavior. But, I do agree that praise for every single little thing might be going a bit overboard.

  2. Hey Nancy. Thanks for the comment! I totally agree with you that positive reinforcement is a good thing. We do a lot of that with our Moose. Unfortunately though, as you know, some things in life are just expected of you, even when you are just a toddler. I want to make sure that she knows that those things are non-negotiable and that she won't always be praised for doing them.

    I know so many kids who have gotten to school and had a really hard time because when they do something right (i.e. raise their hand or sit at their desk), they don't get any positive reinforcement because it is just an expectation.

    I think that, like everything in life, you have to strike that middle ground!

    Thanks again for commenting. :)

  3. As a teacher I do praise kids for things they shouldn't be praised for because kids watch the other kids get praised and they automatically do the same thing. Example: Look at Kaylee standing in line with her quiet finger up and then boom the other kids fall right in line. I still do agree that it is insane to praise kids for every little thing but you gotta do what works. Some kids eat that shit up and when it works you gotta do it. I do praise kids for raising their hands in class because it reminds the other kids to raise their hands without me having to bitch all the time at them. I do understand what you are saying. I agree that the middle ground is the best place to be and it also depends on the kid.

    1. Hi Ashley,

      Thanks for the comment! When I taught Kindergarten, and even now as a Daycare Director, I do sometimes tend to overpraise for the reasons you mentioned. I think that when kids are younger it definitely has more of a place because they are just learning what expectations are. For instance, we may praise a Kindergartener for standing quietly in line, we wouldn't do that for a 5th grader who knows the expectations already.

      Also, I think that in school it makes more sense than it does at home because you are trying to draw the other student's attention to the kid doing the right thing os that they follow suit.

      As you said though, the middle ground is always the best!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!! :)

  4. Oh my God Becky ... I could have written this post! LOL. I am the same way with all the stupid things in life. Have you read my Truth About Me post?? Oh yeah ... complete call out. I agree with you 100% -- give praise where it's due. But overpraising, you are setting your kids up for failure!

    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo

    1. Hey Lanaya,

      Thank you SO much for your comment! It makes me really happy that you agree. I was hesitant to post this because I sometimes think that I am in the minority of parents who feel this way. It seems like everywhere I go, kids are being overpraised and allowed to run wild, while my husband and I are the only parents who actually maintain expectations.

      I have not read the post that you mentioned, but I am off to find it on your page right now!

      Becky :)

  5. I could have written this post especially the part where over praising came out of my mouth to my daughter and I was soooooo mad at myself. I agree kids need to know what is expected of them. This is like the whole lets give everyone a trophy who played on the team just for showing up. That doesn't teach kids anything.

    1. Hey Leslie,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I was seriously afraid when I posted this that people would hate me. As I wrote to Lanaya above, it seems like my husband and I are the only people who feel this way anymore. When we were kids, NO ONE did the overpraising thing, but now people do it so much that it gets ingrained in our heads and normal, rational people like you and I find ourselves doing it.

      And I totally agree about the trophy thing. I actually wrote about that in this post originally, but I took it out and made it a separate post (that still needs some work) because the post was too long.

      Thanks again - it feels so good knowing that I am not alone in this world! :)

  6. OMG yes! It makes me CRAZY. Thank you. Thank YOU for not being that parent all the time. Praise when it's warranted is good. Like when you are trying to teach them a good behaviour. For a short period of time. And then, when they get it, you move on! Good job!!

    1. Thank you so much for agreeing! I am so glad that I am not the only one who goes crazy when I hear this going on. Sadly, it is so common these days that I actually notice and admire people who DON'T do it. When I hear a parent actually discipline instead of stupidly overpraise, I seriously want to give them a hug.

      I agree that it is good to do it when you are teaching them something, but then, like you said, move the hell on!

      Thanks :)

    2. And if you ever happen to run into me in public and I am having another stupid, delusional moment where I am thanking Moose for something idiotic, you have my full permission to punch me. In the face.


Thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to hear from you, so please take a minute to leave me any comments, suggestions, funny stories, or advice about this journey called Mommyhood.

Becky :)