Resisting the Urge to Say, "Good Job!"
My two year old is in the, "myself" phase. He doesn't want help putting on his shoes, opening the door or carrying his plate to the sink. I am stoked that he's asserting his independence and motivated to build new skills. ...Except when he wants to do car seat buckles...it takes forever.
Lately he's started saying, "don't see me" (i.e. go away) when he's working on one of these new skills. I was a little shocked at first because I wanted to cheer him on!
Then I remembered Alphie Kohn. The dude who wrote Punished By Rewards and the article Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!", who claims that when we praise children as they struggle to learn something new we rob them of their joy. He says:
A child deserves to take delight in her accomplishments, to feel pride in what she's learned how to do. She also deserves to decide when to feel that way. Every time we say, "good job!", though, we're telling a child how to feel. ... The most notable feature of a positive judgment isn't that it’s positive, but that it’s a judgment. And people, including kids, don’t like being judged.
... I want my daughter to share her pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want her to exclaim, "I did it!" ... instead of asking me uncertainly, "Was that good?"
My son wants to struggle on his own so he can take full credit for his accomplishment. As he does, he's building intrinsic motivation and the right to feelings of pride and joy. But he can't stop me from saying, "YES you did!" when he is ready for an audience because we all know I'm just about ready to bust when he finally jumps up to say, "I did it!"
More on positive reinforcement in coming weeks. It's tricky business...