Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Praise Where It's Due

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Praise Where It's Due

Article excerpt

Byline: Jane Merrick The Independent

I HAVEN'T been a great listener to all the advice inflicted on new parents. So-called parenting bibles whose attempts to apply a magical formula to everyday life go against every one of my basic instincts as a mother.

My four-year-old daughter has dreamt up her own rule for how many biscuits she is allowed - "Three is piggy, two isn't" - which I don't always apply.

But my own, very loose, approach is to tell her off when she does something wrong and reward her with praise when she does something well. What's wrong with that?

A great deal, if the warnings of a joint Dutch-US study published recently are anything to go by. The scientific paper claims that giving children too much praise turns them into narcissists.

Instead of telling our children they are special, we should say they are as good as anyone else.

It was found that parents who "over-value" their offspring and tell their children they're special risk them growing up to have an inflated view of themselves.

Simply telling a child he or she is loved means they will go on to be confident and well-rounded.

I realise that a scientific study such as this one is more robust than a parenting bible, but both risk applying rigid conclusions to individual children aged four, seven or even 11 - like those in the study - whose potential hasn't yet been revealed.

My own daughter is in her first year at school and, as a summer-born child, needed a lot of encouragement to keep up with her classmates in reading and writing.

At bedtime the other night, she read the word "naughty" correctly in a book, entirely independently. To me, this was an achievement worthy of effusive praise.

I don't use this example to boast about my daughter's reading skills, but to say I refuse to feel guilty or embarrassed about lavishing praise on her.

Does this mean I will cheer every scribble she draws or clap even if she drops a ball when playing catch? …

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