Thursday, April 4, 2013

part one of a series on why i am a bad parent: thanks and praise

there is a popular parenting philosophy at the moment in the crunchy/AP circles that i run in that it is bad to thank or praise a child for doing something that they know how to do and is just part of normal life. it goes something like "if you thank or praise a child for helping pick up toys, they will only pick up in order to get praise and never learn responsibility for its own sake" or "if you praise a child's drawing they will stop drawing for their own enjoyment and do it to please you instead". i think that's just the stinkiest pile of bullshit.

maybe part of it is cultural. i grew up in the south, where people thank eachother for every single thing just as a matter of basic courtessy. i thank the guy who bags my groceries, even though he is expected to do it and payed for doing it already. i thank him because i am showing him that i see him and his effort is not taken for granted. why would i do any less for my own child than i do for a stranger? when my husband draws something that i like, i tell him how beautiful i think it is and praise his artistic skill, and i really appreciate when he or anyone else does the same of my artwork. why would i do any less for my kids?

never once when someone has complimented my drawing has it changed why i draw. i draw because i love it, and feel a sense of connection with someone when they love it too. i would still make art if no one praised it, but the praise is afirming. i would still load the dishwasher and make dinner if my husband never thanked me for it, but when he comes home and notices and thanks me it's really nice. it's about being seen and not taken for granted. when haven shares her toys with cia, i thank her because i want her to know that i understand that it is easy for a two year old to be selfish and that sharing takes effort and that i don't take her efforts for granted. her contribution to the family matters, and i thank her for it just as i would thank an adult. she knows that she is loved unconditionally, so she is encouraged by praise and thanks but not a slave to it.

despite a slew of parenting articles assuring me that i will raise a morally bankrupt and adulation-crazed child, i instead have a confident child who has a tender heart and loves to encourage others. she doesn't take other people for granted when they share with her or help her, because she is not taken for granted. i know saying this puts me at odds with curent trends in the crunchy parenting world, but i'm actually super ok with that. i will happily be a bad mom if it means raising a happy, healthy, confident kid.


  1. Thank goodness that Haven and Cia have such a "bad mom." I used to call myself a dinosaur (member of an extinct species) because my approach to parenting was antithetical to the current fads of my generation. Keep listening to your heart, your own happy, healthy, confident heart. Oh, and THANK YOU for doing such a great job of mothering my grandchildren!! I see your effort, and know what it costs you, and I appreciate that it's not easy but you're doing it anyway, for the sake of real love.

  2. That says it pretty well Betsy! I also believe giving praise and thanks to kids for doing their best is an enormous emotional leg up. It provides an environment they feel safe and accepted in, no matter what any one else in the world might project to them about their efforts. Plus, we have amazing genius children, so that makes praising their accomplishments easy.