What’s a Praise-Junkie?
A Praise Junkie is a child who depends on his/her parents to give constant feedback on what a “Great job she is doing” and “How proud they are of him?” It’s the child who asks “Do you like it?”, “Did I do a good job?”, “Are you proud of me?”, “Did I do it right?” kinds of questions.
A Praise Junkie is a child who looks to the outside world for approval instead of looking inside and using an internal compass to answer the question – do I approve of what I am doing and who I am becoming.
A Praise Junkie is a child who is so use to being judged on the end result, that the joy, the mystery and the excitement of being completely immersed in the Process has lost it’s meaning.
A Praise-Junkie is a child who is at risk of being manipulated by someone – out there – who will gladly give the approval and the applause that this child has become addicted to at the hands of well meaning parents.
When I first started studying Adlerian Psychology and began reading about the dangers of Praise, I, like most people I know, felt completely shocked by what I was learning.
“Praise – the feel good strategy of choice, not good for our kids? How could that be?”
I spent years talking with professionals, reading about the effects of Praise, observing how my own children responded to Encouragement instead of Praise and was soon convinced that Adler presented a good argument for closing the door on Praise and keeping it closed.
Read one Mom’s account of her daughter’s experience when her sister said, “I’m so proud of you!” You will see that when kids are raised with Encouragement from their parents instead of Praise, when someone says to them, “I’m proud of you,” it feels awful. It feels as if you weren’t able to do whatever it was that the parent was proud of, the parent would be disappointed. As parents you may think you are helping your child to feel good, but it has the opposite long-term effect.
So if I was going to give one piece of advice to parents it would be this, “Stop praising and telling your children you are proud of them.”
Even today, with all the research available to parents, I still hear – “How can that be? How can saying, ‘Good job’ or ‘I’m proud of you’ be bad? It makes my child happy, it makes me feel good and it’s easy!”
I admit, it can be a hard habit to break and the fact that it “feels good” (to us) only increases our resistance to giving it up.
So what is my alternative to praising? Encouragement of course.
Encouragement is an observation that can be given at any time, to anyone, in any situation. It is an observation, an acknowledgment, a statement that focuses on effort, improvement or choice, and it helps to promote self-esteem and a sense of self-worth in our children. Encouragement implies faith in and respect for the child as he/she is.
Encouragement is when you look at a drawing your child made and instead of just merely saying, “Good job!” you say, “You chose yellow. What about yellow do you like? Why that shade? What were you thinking about when you drew this? Would you do anything different next time?”
If you use encouragement on a regular basis with your children, it will teach your children to:
- Create an internal framework for themselves in which to self-assess their own lives, their preferences, and their progress:
- Figure out what is important to them;
- Spend less time asking the outside world what they think of who they are as people.
More than any other tool, strategy, concept or skill I use, encouragement has been and continues to be my strategy of choice. In fact, I consider encouragement “a way of being” more than a strategy I use. I believe that if parents developed and mastered the art of encouragement, they would experience dramatic and lasting changes in both their children’s behavior and the quality of the parent/child relationship.
If you’d like to learn more about Encouragement, I discuss the strategy in detail in my books Duct Tape Parenting, A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible and Resilient Kids and The Straight Talk on Parenting, A No Nonsense Guide to Growing a Grownup.