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Telling your kids- good girl/boy
Is it really that bad?


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#1 I'msoMerry

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:37 PM

I have read a few times on here that parents dont praise their children with good girl or good boy.

I give my DD lots of different praises. eg great listening, good job, thankyou for coming, you did that so well, etc.
I also often tell her she is a good girl. What is the reasoning behind that being the wrong thing to say?

I understand why I wouldnt say bad girl, as the behavior is wrong and not her, but why cant she be a good  girl when she is?!

I have always told my DSs they are good boys. I didnt hear this objection around when they were little.

So my question is- Is it really a big deal?

#2 EssentialBludger

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:41 PM

I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..

#3 strawberry blondes

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:53 PM

QUOTE (EssentialBludger @ 25/01/2013, 11:41 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..



I agree with this.

#4 MrsLexiK

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:54 PM

QUOTE (EssentialBludger @ 25/01/2013, 02:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..


Yup, but I think many things are over thought.  Especially on EB

#5 Sif

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:00 PM

No, it's not that bad, it's just another symptoms of parents with far too much time for hand-ringing. I once saw a post online of a mother who was absolutely distraught because her three year old had told her 1 year old that she was a good girl. The mother apparently sat the three year old down and told her she had 'hurt' her little sister by calling her a good girl!

Telling a three year old they have hurt their baby sibling seems far more harmful to a child than praising a child.

Insincere or overly profuse praising could be harmful, but any for of insincere communication with a child or focusing too much on one aspect of their being can be harmful, I think.

Parents showing sincere joy about their children's choices or behaviour - how is that bad???

#6 Klinkalink

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:00 PM

QUOTE (EssentialBludger @ 25/01/2013, 02:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..

Yep, another EB overthunkism.

#7 Ranunculus

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:04 PM

QUOTE (EssentialBludger @ 25/01/2013, 01:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..


Totally overthinking!

I read somewhere that saying "Clever girl/Clever boy" is damaging our children because of some XYZ stupid overthought reason.  rolleyes.gif

#8 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:07 PM

I heap on lots of praise, which includes "good listening", "good sharing", "thanks for obeying mummy", "you were really nice to your sister", "that's a very good drawing", "you are very clever", "you have lovely hair" so on and so forth.

Frankly all the hand wringing over the "right" thing to say is ridiculous, in my opinion.  Children need to know they are unconditionally loved, and that they have boundaries.  That's pretty much my parenting philosophy in a nutshell.

#9 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:11 PM

No, but he often says "thanks for making dinner."  I suppose I would use "thanks" more often than "good xyz", but the sentiment behind it is appreciation.

#10 HeroOfCanton

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:12 PM

Totally overthinking!
I do use it, but not as the only form of praise/reinforcement for DD.
I might say great work, fabulous packing up, good eating - you're using your fork really well etc.
Constantly trying to come up with an alternative to 'good girl' every time was making me sound very false, and I think DD picked up on it.

#11 Ranunculus

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:13 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 25/01/2013, 02:08 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Has anyone bothered to read of the theory with an OPEN mind - not a defensive one?  

It's not "over" thinking it.  Very little thought goes into it.

Do you tell your husband "good man" when he washes up?  Does your partner say "good job!" when you make dinner?


I say "Well done" to my husband if he has accomplished something he's proud of. Just as he says "Good job" to me over a sewing project or something. Makes me feel good inside.

#12 Tesseract

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:15 PM

Well first of all the constant refrain of "good job!" or "good girl!" is grating on the ears. It is also lazy and doesn't actually engage with the child. So there is the argument that it is lazy praise - if you praise in lots of other specific ways as well then a few 'good girls' in there then that sounds balanced.

BUT. There is also an argument against praise itself -  varied or otherwise. I don't praise DD. When she does a drawing, I don't say "that's a great drawing!" - I usually say nothing, there is enough intrinsic reward in doing a drawing. She doesn't need me to tell her that her drawing is good, because research has shown that this evaluation, over time, erodes her love of drawing and her creativity.

When she is generous I don't say "good sharing!". If I feel the need to say something I might just highlight to her that I think the other person is really enjoying the toy she has shared. She then gets the reward of seeing the other person being happy, and is not dependent on me to give external praise to motivate her to engage in positive social interactions.

Ultimately it comes down to the concept of control. If you smack your kid then you are trying to control their behaviour. If you praise your kid you are also trying to control their behaviour, be it in a nicer way. It is about the idea that your child is not a dog to be trained. A constant stream of praise when the child does something you approve of, and love-withdrawal (time out) when they do something you don't approve of, is attempting to control your child.

The positive-reinforcement approach assumes that children are only driven by self interest and must be conditioned to behave otherwise. It also assumes that praise and love-withdrawal work in the long term, which is not backed up by research. In fact the research shows that conditional praise (ie praising for behaviour the parent approves of) erodes motivation, morality, creativity and self-esteem in the long term. Proponents of no-praise also argue that it erodes your relationship with your child.

So that's my poorly expressed understanding of the argument against praise. I 'believe' in it, for now, and like discussing it. However my DD is only 23 months old. I recently posted a thread asking how other people have gone with not forcing pleases and thank yous. I am a far way from experienced in this method. So don't flame me too hard - the OP asked what the problem with 'good girl' is and I have answered. It's part my opinion, part research.

#13 **Xena**

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:16 PM

QUOTE (EssentialBludger @ 25/01/2013, 02:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..


I agree with this too. I also disagree with that article.

As a child I wasn't given much praise, I guess because I was pretty well behaved and turned in a fairly high level of work consistently. However I waslucky enough that I could still produce great results without really trying and I believe had I received at least some recognition I would have tried harder and could have done even better. I know that we should just feel that for ourselves but for me recognition and praise does make me want to try harder.

I also find that now as an adult I desire that praise more because I didn't feel that special growing up. Not that I didn't feel loved though, just that I thought there was nothing very special about me.

None of this I really blame on anyone though, just in case it sounds like I had an awful childhood. I had a wonderful childhood original.gif



QUOTE
Do you tell your husband "good man" when he washes up? Does your partner say "good job!" when you make dinner?


All the time actually laughing2.gif If he does something for me I'll say "Aren't you a good man for (insert something here)!" I also say "good job" when he's done well on something (and sometimes also as a joke when he has failed completely)

#14 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:21 PM

But why can't you appreciate what your children have done?
I have often commended DD1 for drawing a picture because it means she has shown initiative and entertained herself for a period of time.
I commend her for sharing with her sister because generosity is something I believe ought to be cultivated.

Ultimately, I AM trying to benevolently control my children's behaviour and the set boundaries that will protect them and other people.  I certainly don't smack or use derogatory language or tell my kids they're bad.  But when I'm genuinely thankful that they are being nice, generous, loving etc with each other and with us, then of course I'll tell them so.

I too grew up in a household where there was little praise and no appreciation.  And I can tell you, it has been a struggle to overcome in my adulthood my neediness for praise, reward and appreciation.  

So, respectfully, I completely disagree with your position.   original.gif

Edited by Dinah_Harris, 25 January 2013 - 02:24 PM.


#15 pitzinoodles

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:28 PM

QUOTE (Tesseract @ 25/01/2013, 02:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
BUT. There is also an argument against praise itself -  varied or otherwise. I don't praise DD. When she does a drawing, I don't say "that's a great drawing!" - I usually say nothing, there is enough intrinsic reward in doing a drawing. She doesn't need me to tell her that her drawing is good, because research has shown that this evaluation, over time, erodes her love of drawing and her creativity.

When she is generous I don't say "good sharing!". If I feel the need to say something I might just highlight to her that I think the other person is really enjoying the toy she has shared. She then gets the reward of seeing the other person being happy, and is not dependent on me to give external praise to motivate her to engage in positive social interactions..


I have to respond to this. Reading this opens wounds.

My mother had this philosophy, although it probably wasn't articulated as such back then. As a child of someone who believed in the intrinsic rewards of the achievement of drawing/music/good marks I beg you to sometimes throw in a 'good girl' 'great job' or similar. It's harsh to think your parents don't value your achievements or just you being you.

I remember once winning a VERY prestigious prize, I desperately wanted my parents to give me a 'well done, we are so proud of you'. Instead I got 'well, you can be very proud of your efforts' sad.gif

I am completely against over praising for the littlest thing, certificates/prizes for everything, so I do get the sentiment behind it - but your children want you to be proud of them, it's so important in their self worth, and it's a good motivator too!

Edited to make sense!

Edited by pitzinoodles, 25 January 2013 - 02:32 PM.


#16 Copacetic

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:30 PM

QUOTE
I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..


Oh god, so totally agree.  I get this mental image in my head of thousands of parents not praising their toddler when they're toilet training or something, or just saying "Well. That was mediocre" so they don't get a big head.  

Who cares.  Just parent them

#17 Feral Grey Mare

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:32 PM

QUOTE (strawberry blondes @ 25/01/2013, 02:53 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I agree with this.



On the rare occasions I do something to warrant praise from DH he usually responds to me with "good girl"...............If I object to being addressed in the same way as he talks to the dog, that just inspires him to do it more often.


I think there are much more important issues for the "experts" to be focusing on when it comes to how to talk to our kids.

#18 MrsLexiK

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:32 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 25/01/2013, 03:08 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Has anyone bothered to read of the theory with an OPEN mind - not a defensive one?

It's not "over" thinking it. Very little thought goes into it.

Do you tell your husband "good man" when he washes up? Does your partner say "good job!" when you make dinner?


I can think of one or two times where DH or I have said "good job" to each other. (I will admit most of those times have been behind closed doors)  I don't say "good boy" to my DH when he packs away his tools because he knows he should do this, but my nephew who is learning what is acceptable behaviour (to us packing away toys/clothes/tools etc after use is acceptable behaviour) gets told he is a good boy when he packs up the toys he has been playing with.  

Oh and my DH does say "good job" when I make dinner as lately I have been experimenting so it really is a good job that I have done.

#19 Ranunculus

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:33 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 25/01/2013, 02:21 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This is where the theory of "praise junky" comes from.   You should feel good inside regardless of your husband's opinion.  Sure it's great when someone congratulates you, but it shouldn't impact on your own feelings if they don't.

And there are ways of showing appreciation and congratulating someone without a "good job".  Give honest feedback, ask them what they think of their work, note something you like, show an interest.  "Good job" is meaningless, and it's a judgement and usually used for manipulation.   Your kids will get to an age where they will see through that.  I see straight through my husband when he's trying to manipulate me to do something through praise.


Maybe if my parents praised me a little more growing up, I wouldn't still be seeking it as an adult?

I won't be over doing it with my daughter, but she will certainly know we're proud of the things she does and I will still praise her for good behaviour.

#20 Tesseract

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:37 PM

QUOTE (Dinah_Harris @ 25/01/2013, 03:21 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
But why can't you appreciate what your children have done?
I have often commended DD1 for drawing a picture because it means she has shown initiative and entertained herself for a period of time.
I commend her for sharing with her sister because generosity is something I believe ought to be cultivated.

Ultimately, I AM trying to benevolently control my children's behaviour and the set boundaries that will protect them and other people.  I certainly don't smack or use derogatory language or tell my kids they're bad.  But when I'm genuinely thankful that they are being nice, generous, loving etc with each other and with us, then of course I'll tell them so.

I too grew up in a household where there was little praise and no appreciation.  And I can tell you, it has been a struggle to overcome in my adulthood my neediness for praise, reward and appreciation.  

So, respectfully, I completely disagree with your position.   original.gif


When someone says they don't praise, people automatically think that we don't say anything at all. That's not the case. Perhaps it would be clearer to say "I don't use conditional praise in an attempt to 'positively reinforce' behaviour I want my children to engage in." When DD does something that I genuinely delight in, or that she is genuinely delighted in and wants to share with me, I genuinely get excited. I show an interest, I might even point out an aspect of it that stands out to me and that I like. I often ask her if she enjoyed the activity and what she thinks about it. I might say "you looked like you really had fun splashing in the pool!" (I try hard not to come across as contrite though!).

I also say thank you to her a lot. Thanks for putting the toys away, now we can all enjoy the tidy lounge. I tell her I love her to bits. I smother her with cuddles and kisses. I listen to everything she says. I engage with her in what she is doing. She doesn't feel unappreciated. But she doesn't need my assessment after every action.

DD is only 23 months and already the difference is showing up with some of our friends. One particular friend of mine is constantly on with the "good sharing!" "great balancing!" "nice manners!" - every time the kid does anything she turns to her mother looking for praise. It's not healthy, she's creating a praise junkie. Extreme case maybe, and I'm sure personality plays a big part, but it is enlightening to see them together.

Dinah_Harris your experience growing up is interesting, thank you for sharing, and it is something that I think about often. Getting the balance is a challenge because we only seem to have two options available - treat kids like crap or tell them they're great all the time; well this is a third way, and it does take a while to get your head around not praising but still being loving, appreciative and excited. I guess the other thing that has turned me against conditioning is that my parents tried very hard to condition me. I by and large lived up to their expectations, but it never felt truly enjoyable, and there was always the niggling feeling that underneath all my achievements I was worthless. So yeah, I'm an ex-praise junkie and don't want to repeat that for my child.

#21 Canberra Chick

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:47 PM

QUOTE (EssentialBludger @ 25/01/2013, 02:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I say good boy/girl

I think people are really over thinking this stuff tbh..



Yup. I don't praise constantly (hell, I'm of Scottish Protestant stock; that would be totally out of character!  wink.gif ) but credit where credit is due. I also just thank them for doing something, just like I thank DH for doing some job round the house and he thanks me. And if one of us has a brilliant idea then we do say something like 'good work/thinking Batman'.

#22 Guest_LILLIANA1_*

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:52 PM

Tesseract, I recently read "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn, which I thought was a brilliant book. It has made me think about these things in a different light. Is this where you've read about this theory or are there other similar books out there? It is interesting to hear that you think it is having a positive effect on your child.

#23 adl

Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:59 PM

Actually was going to say yes over thought but then I did read it...I do get tired of hearing over praising..so much I work with younger gen and honestly they need constant praise  to function...it's all too tiring...

Better to say what the action is than just "good" all the time...and certainly not as a way to manipulate behavior..my parents didn't so it all rather alien to me to over praise....

#24 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:02 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 25/01/2013, 02:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You absolutely can and should!   "Good girl/boy/job" isn't showing appreciation though, it's a judgement.


Yeah, I see what you mean.  


QUOTE (Tesseract @ 25/01/2013, 02:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
When someone says they don't praise, people automatically think that we don't say anything at all. That's not the case. Perhaps it would be clearer to say "I don't use conditional praise in an attempt to 'positively reinforce' behaviour I want my children to engage in." When DD does something that I genuinely delight in, or that she is genuinely delighted in and wants to share with me, I genuinely get excited. I show an interest, I might even point out an aspect of it that stands out to me and that I like. I often ask her if she enjoyed the activity and what she thinks about it. I might say "you looked like you really had fun splashing in the pool!" (I try hard not to come across as contrite though!).

I also say thank you to her a lot. Thanks for putting the toys away, now we can all enjoy the tidy lounge. I tell her I love her to bits. I smother her with cuddles and kisses. I listen to everything she says. I engage with her in what she is doing. She doesn't feel unappreciated. But she doesn't need my assessment after every action.

DD is only 23 months and already the difference is showing up with some of our friends. One particular friend of mine is constantly on with the "good sharing!" "great balancing!" "nice manners!" - every time the kid does anything she turns to her mother looking for praise. It's not healthy, she's creating a praise junkie. Extreme case maybe, and I'm sure personality plays a big part, but it is enlightening to see them together.

Dinah_Harris your experience growing up is interesting, thank you for sharing, and it is something that I think about often. Getting the balance is a challenge because we only seem to have two options available - treat kids like crap or tell them they're great all the time; well this is a third way, and it does take a while to get your head around not praising but still being loving, appreciative and excited. I guess the other thing that has turned me against conditioning is that my parents tried very hard to condition me. I by and large lived up to their expectations, but it never felt truly enjoyable, and there was always the niggling feeling that underneath all my achievements I was worthless. So yeah, I'm an ex-praise junkie and don't want to repeat that for my child.


I'm finding that I don't disagree with you as much as I initially thought.  Much of what you're talking about, I instinctively do, rather than following a distinct style or philosophy.  I definitely don't want to create children who need lots of praise just to get through life, nor do I want to create expectations that they feel they must live up to.  I think what I do is much more along the lines of - "thanks for such and such" rather than, "good such and such".  Like a PP'er I think it helps to be specific.  
However, I really do see the face of my 4 year old absolutely light up like a Christmas tree when I tell her that her painting is excellent.  
It is also interesting that I felt much the same way you did - although our parents were obviously quite different.  I felt I was always trying to live up to impossible expectations, because I felt I was always not quite living up to whatever it was they wanted.


#25 BadCat

Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:06 PM

Honestly I don't think it's a big deal.  Unless it's the only string in your bow.  If the only praise or feedback you ever offer is good girl then it's time to add a few new comments to your rotation.

Offhand I can think of over a dozen different praise and feedback phrases I use or have used.  Good girl is one of them.  As are awesome, well done, good on you, excellent, nicely done, good work, cool and fruity, cheers big ears, and plain old thank you.

I think any hand-wringing over good girl would be well wasted in this house.

I do agree about overuse of praise though.  I have a friend who says good job constantly, even to her husband.  It's quite revolting and ridiculous.  Not everything needs to be praised.

Edited by BadCat, 25 January 2013 - 03:10 PM.





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