Sunday, July 28, 2013

I tell my children when they've done a piss poor job - and I'm a good parent for it.

Today my daughter, 6 mos old, managed to hold a baby spoon and get a bit of avocado in her mouth. I reacted with praise and excitement, "good job!" I shrieked clapping and smiling. She beamed back at me with a face full of slimy green goodness.

It reminded me though of a post I read in a "gentle parenting" group I was invited to. I didn't stay long for a few reasons, namely I don't need to label myself nor do I subscribe to any one way of parenting. I've had three of my own children and assisted in rearing two others, and am STILL looking for answers and feeling around blindly in the dark when it comes to parenting.  I am by no means an expert, though I do have some experience. Those are not the same things.

The post in the Gentle Parenting group was discussing using the phrase "good job"and how when you use it you infer that they can sometimes do a "bad job" and how they didn't want to damage the self esteem of the child. It made and argument that you are saying "you pleased me, and that's good, that's what you should be doing" rather than (and yes, this is a real quote from the article in the post
"More than it celebrates, blanket praise imparts judgment and increases a child’s reliance on external validation."  
My eye rolls began. I muttered something to myself along the lines of "oh for the love of..." and then called a girlfriend of mine just to make sure I wasn't being a complete asshole.  She is much more level headed than most other people (unless you count commenting on threads about how breastfeeding is gross, then her inner fire-breathing-dragon comes out) and certainly more forgiving than I am.  I told her about this post and her exact comment was (and yes, this is the real quote) "Oh for the love of..."

I somehow managed to contradict myself in the eyes of new parents everywhere fifteen years ago when I said that babies under 6 months can't be spoiled, get them when they cry and ALSO that no child ever died from crying - sometimes you have to do things and can't grab them AT THAT EXACT MOMENT.  Also, I bedshared with my son until he was about 3, but I also had a crib for him.  I don't agree with hitting a child but I won't hesitate to get their attention however I have to if they are putting themselves in harms way by doing EXACTLY the opposite of what I've asked, (i.e., running into a parking lot, standing on the edge of something high, grabbing scissors/knives/sharp things, playing with fire)  all of which my now 15 year old did.  I baby wear, I breastfeed, and I make my own babyfood when convenient, and I co-sleep.

To those looking in at these items alone, they would label me an "attachment parent".  They would be wrong to do so, but I've learned in my 40 years that people need to label, categorize, and file things away neatly.

Honestly I have issue with blindly praising everything a child does as wonderful awesome and amazing.  At some point, they have to learn they are NOT the best at everything, or else what will be left for them to strive for if they've already reached perfection at 5?

But back to the reason I'm posting this.  Saying "Good Job" and imparting judgment.  I have no issue with imparting judgment.  As a matter of fact, I impart judgment with most every single thing I do with regard to reacting to my children's doings.

And this is why - once a child leaves your home and goes out there, into the world - they will NOT do a perfect job every time. They will also sometimes to a crap job because they didn't try. ALL children.  EVERY child has the propensity to be lazy, to cut corners, to figure out a better way of doing something or an easier way. This isn't a bad thing - this is how we ended up with smart phones and fax machines and ear buds.  However - what boss has ever said, "thank you! this is excellent, whatever-it-is, awesome to have you on our team"?

Teachers will grade them with F's.  Enemies in school will call them losers, love interests will say no thanks pal, and bosses and potential bosses will tell them they failed. This happens in life.

If my teen goes to school and does a mediocre job and gets a C I will tell her she did a bad job and I'm not proud of her at that moment.  And I have done this. She is still an honor student and is still motivated to get good grades, go to college and do well. Her person and soul are not crushed because I said "Good Job".

If my 10 year old does a science project last minute, throws it together and gets a D - I say he earned that D because it was poor planning and not a good job.

This is the reality of the world. What's going to happen when all these kids grow up thinking they can do nothing wrong? How difficult is the world going to be when they realize that people judge you?  Harshly even?

I don't want to be there when they look back and say, "you didn't' prepare me for this world mom and dad, GOOD JOB".

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