One thing I’ve realized being the author of a parenting book, is you get to know authors of other parenting books. One who reached out to contact me was Amy McCready, author of If I Have to Tell you One More Time…
I’ll admit, as a renegade parenting author, I’m a bit leery of parenting books. After all, mine is focused on upending many of our most cherished parenting conventions (sharing, saying ‘sorry,’ not hitting). But I like Amy’s book.
She has sound advice. She gives parents options besides yelling, and bases her ideas on respect, effectiveness and good communication patterns. She’s a reformed yeller herself, and much of her book is inspired by Adlerian psychology.
Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find inside –
- Getting out the door in the morning
- How to avoid “Special Services” (getting cereal for your capable 4-year-old)
- Sibling rivalry and conflict mediation
- Family Meetings
- Allowances and chores
- Escaping from bad parent-child patterns of behavior
But what I like most about Amy’s book is her excellent section on praise. My book contains a chapter called “Stop saying ‘Good job!’” It wasn’t the hardest chapter to write (social rejection was), but I found it tricky to explain to my editor why she shouldn’t lavish praise on her four-year-old. “But I want him to grow up feeling good about himself!” she said.
That’s the thing. We care about self-esteem, but praise (especially too much praise) does the opposite.
Many books and studies have backed up the notion that encouraging effort, persistence and improvement is better than slapping on the praise (research by Carol Dweck at Stanford; Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes; and also Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman). But how to do that?
Amy’s the first one I’ve seen who really nails it. She lays out the praise argument beautifully and gives you clear steps on how to change from a praise-giver to an encouraging parent.
It’s tricky to recognize the nuances of praise. Sometimes it seems disguised. But Amy shows how it’s all about focusing on the child’s effort and internal motivation.
That’s why I love her Encouragement-versus-praise Quiz.
- “I like the way Sara is sitting quietly.”
- “I’m proud of you.”
- “You’re so smart.”
- “You must really feel proud of yourself!”
- “You’re the cutest.”
- “Look how far you’ve come.”
She helps us take off our blinders and see which of these phrases are helpful encouragement and which are destructive praise. For after all, as Amy reminds us, the dictionary definition of encouragement is “to inspire with courage, to spur on”
A young child who is constantly praised is likely to look to her parents for approval. But that changes as the child grows. Soon she’s a teenager who has no internal compass. Amy explains how you’re training a teen who looks to her crowd for approval. “Teenagers raised on praise develop few long-term skills for deciding whether or not to cheat on a test or accept alcohol at a party. All they’ve learned is to go along with whatever the crowd wants.”
She acknowledges it’s hard to change all at once. Her book advises posting sticky notes with words you want to say around the house and watching for personal pride inside your child. When you see the glow inside, you’re probably using excellent encouragement.
So check out Amy McCready’s book: If I Have to Tell you One More Time…the revolutionary program that gets your kids to listen without nagging, reminding or yelling (now out in paperback). She has a terrific blog and runs parenting coaching, too. And, if you’re still mystified by the title of my book, you’ll find my guest post there all about why it’s OK not to share.
Do you think we’re over-praising kids now? Were you raised with lots of praise? What’s one phrase you find yourself saying (or hearing) too much?