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He Had Me at ‘Nice Lungs’

In defense of meaningless praise and compliments.

Recently a friend forwarded me an article entitled, “5 Things to Never Say to Your Child.”

Here is the list:

  1. “Your sister is my favorite.”
  2. “You were an accident.”
  3. “That’s not your real father.”
  4. “I wish I’d never had children.”
  5. “Good job.”

Good job? Is that really in the top five? Who actually thinks that not praising their kids means they’re doing a good job?

I like praise even when I know it is a complete lie. One time, I was getting stitches in my back, and after the doctor was done, she smiled at me and said, “Wow that was the stillest anyone has ever stayed while I was stitching them.” I beamed with pride. And it is not really even a compliment. Of course I was still; I was lying on my stomach, my skin full of lidocaine. If she had been stitching me up, on the back of a horse, with no anesthesia, now that would have been a compliment. But I knew she was lying to me, she knew that I knew she was lying to me, and I liked it anyway. I’m still proud of myself.

I wonder if the AMA agrees with “good job” being the new most hated phrase in American parenting.

Seriously, how did this asinine thought become popular? What would make someone think praise is a problem? Is it because all these snotty kids are entering the work force, and they expect their bosses to tell them good job for arriving to work on time?

I’ve heard different reasons why you aren’t supposed to compliment your kids. One reason I heard is that too much praise eventually becomes meaningless. I don’t believe this.

Honestly, I never get tired of hearing praise. I bet if you strung a bunch of random words together, but had “you did a good job” thrown into the mix, I would shine with pride. Years ago, I was getting an X-ray after a car accident, and the X-ray tech said, “Wow, you have huge lungs. Are you a runner?” I straightened myself on the table, smoothed my paper gown, looked over doe-eyed at him and gushed, “Well, yes, I do run to the fridge and back during commercials.” No one had ever complimented my lungs before. I would have gone home with him right then if he hadn’t just started a 12-hour shift.

Another reason I have heard for not praising your kids is that they won’t discover their true likes and dislikes because they are just trying to do what makes you happy. “Praise junkies,” my friend calls it. Are you honestly afraid your child will never discover what makes her happy just because you are saying “great job?” Good grief, people, I’m pretty sure every kid does that all by themselves; it’s called puberty.

Plus, have you ever met someone whose parents gave them no praise? The parents could have been the most loving, supportive parents, and their poor kid is just desperately trying to achieve something that will finally be good enough for their parents tofinally say “good job!” It becomes an obsession way into adulthood.

The last reason I have heard as to why you should not praise your children is that people blame all this complimenting when their kids grow up to be brats. It’s not from the compliments, silly, it’s from the fact that you buy them whatever they want, you don’t say no to them, and you never let them have any consequences for their actions.

My friend’s child was fascinated by the stove. Gentle persuasion and positive parenting were not dissuading the kid from wanting to play with fire, so my friend put her whole family on a raw foods diet . “Until he is out of that phase,” she said. I say, let the kid touch the stove one time. I promise you, he won’t do it a third time.

And I also say praise your kids. It feels good to have a little praise. I get so sick of all this parenting advice that makes you feel guilty over the tiniest minutiae of verbiage that naturally comes out of your mouth. Be confident in your instinctual parenting.

And to quote the poem ‘Children Learn What They Live‘ by Dorothy Law Nolte, “If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.”

And on that note, I’d like to tell you that I am so proud of you for taking a little time out of your day to read about how wonderful your parenting skills already are. Good job!

(Now didn’t that feel good?)

Published inPen Name Jane

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