This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.
In Montessori training we are taught to be mindful of the amount and kinds of praise we give children. One of the main goals in Montessori is to foster children's innate motivation to learn and do things. Children instinctively want to please adults, and giving lots of very enthusiastic praise can cause them to start doing things in order to please and get that praise, rather than because they truly want to do them for themselves (to use creativity in art as an example, they may start making the kinds of drawings that tend to get them lots of praise, rather than what they may want to draw for their own enjoyment). In the classroom, we try to give limited praise, and focus on praising the process rather than the finished product. So, basically, praise is something I've been aware of for a while and tried to be mindful of (which is difficult in our culture, as praise is usually viewed as a very good thing, and the more of it the better).
Then a few months ago I read Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's book, NurtureShock, and I was blown away by all the research that supports the idea that lots of praise is not really a good thing. Here is one simple example:
For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.
Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”
Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”
Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.
Read more: The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids -- New York Magazine http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/index1.html#ixzz0iT2LQSCO
NurtureShock deals with many different topics, but the first chapter is on praise and its positive and often surprising negative consequences. It looks like most of this first chapter has been published on the web over here (thanks, Jessica, for sending the link!), and I urge every parent, teacher, grandparent, and basically anybody who ever deals with children to head over and have a read. It's a difficult concept to wrap your head around sometimes (how in the world can praise be bad, right?), and an even harder habit to break (I have such a hard time not gushing to D how smart he is every 5 seconds!), but I think it's a really important thing to pay attention to.
The rest of the book is equally brilliant. There is a chapter on how sleep affects learning and mood (and how many of the classic stereotypes of teenagers-- grumpy, disengaged, bored, etc-- might simply be symptoms of sleep deprivation thanks to having to wake up so early for school); how parents deal with race and how important it is to talk with your children about it; why kids lie (and why most strategies used to keep them from lying to us encourage them to get better at it instead); why siblings fight; how to teach self-control; how children and babies develop language skills (hint: it's not just about talking to them); etc. Each chapter challenges some basic idea that most of us take for granted as Truth, and instead presents all sorts of evidence for how and why that approach might be backfiring on us. It really is a fascinating read, and one I recommend highly. You don't have to agree with what they say, but it's pretty eye-opening and at times just plain shocking to read through all the research they have studied.
Welcome to the Carnival of Gentle DisciplineLinks will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.
Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.
Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!
Day 1 - What Is Gentle Discipline
- Gentle Discipline 101 at The Parent Vortex
- The Power of Praise (hint: it's not what you think) at Mighty Marce
- Golden Rule Parenting at Novel Mama
- Choosing Joy at Raising My Boychick
- Making It Fun - The Power of Play at Schmoopy Baby
- Assuming the Best Intentions at Hobo Mama
- 50's Childhood - Guest Poster, Connie at Baby Dust Diaries
- I Have The Urge To Spank But I Choose Not To at Breastfeeding Moms Unite
- Mistakes at Breastfeeding Momma
- Undermining General Beliefs about Corporal Punishment at Authentic Parenting
- Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life
- A Tiny Word With a Powerful Impact at Little Green Blog
- Parenting a Toddler With Loving Guidance at Little Snowflakes
- A Positive View on Tantrums at Edenwild
- The Terrible Two (and Two Parenting Strategies to Replace Them) a guest post by Code Name: Mama on Good Goog
- Gentle Parenting During Toddler Tantrums at Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense
- Gentle Parenting Ideas from a Toddler's Perspective at Code Name: Mama