Tuesday, July 26, 2011


For the last month I have been back to work a few days a week. My colleagues show a great interest in my life as a mother but since in their eyes I am not practicing general common known methods of parenting quite a few discussions have erupted in the last weeks and this one really got me thinking.

It came up that I am not intending to praise my son for doing his first steps, for painting a nice picture or for a good mark in school. I even think I saw their "What kind of mother are you?" thoughts shining through their eyes.
I admit that it is not something I would (or should I say I wouldn't) intend to do naturally. I read about it throughout my reading, research and discussions on parenting and first it sounded strange to me too but when I got to think about it it all made so much sense.

Alfie Kohn created the word "prasie junkies" but that's just one of five reasons why we shouldn't call out "Good job!" as soon as a child has acted to our expectations. Read more on that in his own article here.

So when my son is taking the wipe out of my hand to clean himself instead of me doing it I am tempted to say "Well done!" but instead I bite my tongue and quietly say "Oh you can clean yourself." and when he hands me the wipe back I say "Thank you!" Why should I praise him for a developmental step?
His first steps I commented with "Hey, you made it! That is great I'm so happy for you!" and I hugged him and laughed with him. These are very special moments and I still see the pride and happiness in his eyes even if I don't shout out "Well done!". But instead of just praising him I am enjoying the moment WITH him.
And I hope this will help to avoid what I heard of my colleagues when we discussed all this, because they said that they are dependent on their parent's acknowledgement and recognition, that they need their boss or colleagues to tell them what a great job they are doing and that friends show what good friends they are. And I thought this is sad. Am I really sitting here, 32 years old in the process of changing my life and my career hoping my mom would say "I'm proud of you!" ? I would have to ask for whom I am doing all this, wouldn't I?
Of course I am happy when my mom supports what I'm doing, but I don't need her to praise me. And luckily she never did. When I moved to Great Britain she certainly wasn't happy, especially considering the fact that I had taken years to finish my study in engineering and would now go into "nowhere" without a job or anything in my mind. The better it felt when a few years back she said that she is happy for me and my experiences, that I took my chance to go away for a while and learned a bit about life before settling into it.

It is the same in my job. What I have to do needs to be done. Why should anybody say "Great job!" Of course this can come when I am doing something really good in a very short time but then what happens? First they expect me to deliver the same "great job" next time too when I am not able to and they are disappointed or I do but they got used to it and won't acknowledge it again which will result in my disappointment. In the end the line "Great job!" was just a "feel good" moment I had once. If I don't rely on it, do my job the best I can and enjoy what I do I should have lots of feel good moments. And this is what is important, this is what we should convey our children. That they should do something they like, that they should enjoy the process and know for themselves if the result is in their eyes good or bad. We shouldn't raise those praise junkies like me colleagues that can't wait for acknowledgement the minute they finish a job and who are rather angry with my boss because he never does.

Yesterday my husband sent me an email from a colleague of his who really praised the job my husband just did. Of course Jan was happy and I was happy for him. But today or tomorrow or next month it is much more important that my husband LOVES his job, that he loves going to work on a monday morning and that such emails come as a surprise to him rather UNexpected. Isn't that we all should aim for?