Please Don’t Praise Me

Please Don't Praise Me

“Wow! That’s really good jumping!”

“Ugh, I’m on a trampoline don’t you know? It’s not hard.”

Those awkward moments when your kids aren’t used to being praised and then someone praises them and they’re all like what on earth are you on about? True story.

Whenever I make a comment that suggests that praising kids is not all that great, I get many people telling me how praise is good. How much kids like it and need it. How it’s encouraging and motivating.

I honestly believe that it’s not the praise they like, but simply being noticed. I really feel like if all children knew they could be acknowledged without being praised, they would say, ‘Please don’t praise me’.

Maybe they would tell us something like this…

Please don’t praise me, it’s a judgment.

Please Don't Praise Me

When you tell me something I have done is ‘good’, that is a judgement. Yes, it’s a positive judgement, but still a judgment. I don’t need you to judge me as worthy or unworthy. I just need you to see me, to notice me. I’m not trying to live up to your standards. I just want to be me, and accepted for that.

Please don’t praise me, because then I feel like I can’t disappoint you.

If I am always ‘good’ and ‘brave’ and ‘kind’ and ‘nice’ and a ‘winner’, I feel like I have to keep living up to your standards. I have to keep being the person you think I am. And what if I’m not?  What if some days I feel grumpy? What if I feel scared? Am I no longer ‘good’? Am I a disappointment? How can I ever tell you how I really feel when it might disappoint you? That’s too risky.

Please Don't Praise Me

Please don’t praise me, I feel like your love is conditional.

When you praise me I feel like you are seeing only my achievements and not the real me. I feel as though I must earn your love through what I do and how I behave. I feel like I have to keep doing more and more and better and better for you to notice me.

“When children feel they must keep doing impressive things so their parents will be proud of them, their acceptance of themselves may become equally conditional.” –Alfie Kohn

Please don’t praise me, it kills my motivation.

When I am working hard at something, I am doing it for me. I am intrinsically motivated to explore and discover the world. When you praise me for my natural curiosity, you dampen that motivation. No longer am I motivated solely by my own desire, but also to please you. I also start to need praise. I no longer trust in my own decisions and judgement.

Please don’t praise me, it steals my joy.

Please Don't Praise Me

When I run to you and show you something I have done, with joy on my face and excitement at my own capabilities, please don’t praise me. You take a little of my joy by making it about you. Your judgement. Your feelings.

Just see me.

Please don’t praise me, it feels like control.

When I am ‘good’ because I do the things you want me to do, it feels like control and pressure. I know you sometimes use those words to ‘encourage’ me. I don’t need to be constantly encouraged to be a ‘good’ person. I need you to know that I already am.

Please don’t praise me, that’s not what I need.

All I need is for you to see the real me. All I need is to feel connected to you. All I need is for you to share in my joy and accomplishments. All I need is an authentic relationship, not one based on control.

Please Don't Praise Me

Children don’t need our praise. They need our unconditional love and acceptance.

I know the praise habit is hard to kick. This post has some ideas about what to say/do instead.

Please Don't Praise Me - Why kids don't want or need praise!

10 thoughts on “Please Don’t Praise Me

  1. When my daughter was little, she had Global Language Disorder and some behavioral problems. I was told by the “professionals” to praise her when she was behaving well, and to praise her as much as I could. I did as instructed and every time I praised her, she would then do something negative in a big way. She was clearly angry when she acted out then. No one could tell me why she behaved this way. Needless to say, I stopped praising her. This post is the first time I have any sort of explanation for her response to praise. Thank you for your insights.

    • If a good friend of yours did something you liked,what would you do? I know I wouldnt say “good job”. I think Sara answers the question when she says that kids want us to notice them and be present, rather than a pat on the head. My 10 month old daughter LOVES it when I join in with what shes doing, so rather than saying “great crawling Mae, or I like how you are patting the cat so gently” I just get on my hands and knees and crawl about with her, or join in with snuggling the cat. Shes probably younger than your children/child, but I wonder whether your child might like that too? “Mummy, watch me jump on the trampoline!” “Ohhh can I join!!”

  2. Beautiful. You’re so right about children needing to be SEEN and parents confusing that with praise. Many of us only received positive acknowledgement as kids in the form of praise, so it takes some rewiring to parent differently.

    As with so many parenting dilemmas, “Would I say this to an adult I love and respect?” is a good test. We would never thank our partners with a “Good boy!” or a falsely cheerful “What good sweeping!”

  3. Hey I want to say thank you so much for your blog, I grew up emotionally neglected and your blog has been so cathartic and healing for me to read and reinforces my beliefs about how children should be treated.

    “no praise” threw me for a loop when I first saw it, but it makes sense in context. From this, I am unsure how to compliment kids without praising them, I love my friend’s art so I complement their art, so I want to complement kid’s art and show them I appreciate it as well.

    I am still not entirely sure what the answer is, but Shayla’s litmus test of “would you say this to an adult” seems to work. Every time I hear someone call a kid “good boy/girl” I cringe internally. Are they a dog? It’s dehumanizing and patronizing, and above all one of the things I hated most as a kid was being patronized. So I won’t patronize kids.

  4. I love this so much. Your upbringing determines so much about who you become.. For me and my desire to be a mom one day, this is the kind of knowledge I need. Definitely bookmarking this entire blog haha. Thank you for sharing. <3

  5. I see your point. I’m not sure that I agree. When I do my job, or when I do stuff around the house, I’m already intrinsically proud and pleased with what I have done or am doing – but it’s still really nice and makes me feel really good when my boss tells me the display is great, or the kids in my class tell me that they think I’m a great teacher, or my husband tells me dinner was delicious. Even though I already know I did a good job, it’s kind of nice for somebody else to show you that they agree.
    With my own children I say things like, “you look really proud” with a big beaming face so they can see that I am really proud too.

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