“You got 10/10! That’s my smart boy!”
“I love your picture!’
“You are awesome!”
You’re the best!
These comments sound positive but they’re simply external praise, external judgement.
What ends up happening is the child being praised continues to perform the behaviour because it pleases the adult.
I’m sure you’re quite familiar with and hear kids continue to seek approval from parents and teachers with statements like-
“Do you like my painting?
“Do you think I did a good job dad?”
A child who wants to please his parents/teachers/other adults/peer might seem like a good thing. In fact, that’s one of the ways we manipulate kids to get them to do what we want them to do: make mummy happy and finish your food/clean up the room/put up your shoes/enter the car or coming from a peadophile, may sound like make me happy and touch my private part/let me…etc.
The problem is: the more we heap up that external praise, the more kids crave it.
The sad part is, praise erodes children’s confidence- because eventually, they can’t determine if they did well for themselves- they depend on others for approval.
A child who needs external motivation/validation can be highly susceptible to some dangerous situations down the road when the stakes are a lot higher.
For example, when your child is a teenager and faces the decision whether to do drugs or not, cheat on a test or not, have pre-marital sex or not, how do you want them to be motivated? -by what others like their peer group think? …Or will they be motivated by and make decisions according to their own internal compass?
Hear the different cases of sexual abuse- it’s common for the peadophile to say to the victim- if you tell, I won’t be your friend again/I will not like you/you will die- and the victim suffers in silence because his decisions have been groomed to be in accordance to external validation as opposed to his/her own internal moral compass…
Of course, we want our kids to develop a strong internal compass for what’s right/wrong…
However, the more we praise a child, we set up a situation with them that they crave external rewards and external validation… After all, a praise junky needs continuous affirmation and approval from other people that they’re doing ok…
What to do differently?
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