Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Being a "cool" parent

Well it seems that after years of being on the outside I might just be finally able to consider myself as one of the "cool" gang.
By "cool", I mean being a mum who parents in a conscious way.

I started with a very peaceful and serene water birth at home.
I breast-feed on demand.
I sleep with my baby.
I carry her in an ergo.
I do baby-led-weaning.

But I have a confession to make....this "cool" mum still slips up at times.
By 'slips up' I mean I say or do things that are no longer considered "good" parenting and apparently are a guarantee that my child will end up in therapy by the time she is 30.

I will give you an example;
My little pixie might be playing with building blocks and after what must seem like a life time for her, she finally manages to actually stack one on top of the other. When this happens she must feel so good with herself because her whole face lights up and she looks at me with such joy, that before I know what I have said (so in other words in an unconscious act) the words "well done darling" have flooded out of my mouth and are washing her in PRAISE.

My little pixie certainly doesn't mind but I instantly feel this twinge of "OOPS" and then I might re-phrase and say something like "good building darling". This is when I am on my own I might add...Just imagine the strength of the sensations rushing through my veins when I am in the company of other mums, particularly those that are more established in "proper parenting".

What is this all about?
Where is the line between being a conscious parent and a naturally loving parent?
What causes more harm to our children...parents that feel guilty for not getting it perfect, or being praised by parents who love you...and I don't mean all the time either.
Is this just something else that we can feel guilty about? That we can worry about?

This certainly needs more thought and attention....so lets consider this part 1.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this :)


  1. Oh dear, I'm a few posts away from writing about the evils of PRAISE. lol We must be reading each others minds, when it comes to ponderings.... ;)
    But I am anti-praise (somewhat statement.comment there).

    Quickly here I will say, it's not a matter of scarring our children, which I HAVE heard from the xtremists, but there is a reason why praise is being questioned. All to do with allowing our children to look within, rather than the external world for validation.

  2. edit: (somewhat exaggerated comment there)

  3. I also try to limit my praise, but I do think the case against it gets overstated a lot. I think children will feel what pleases us anyway, whether we say it or not. Trying to please each other to a certain extent is a natural and healthy part of human relationships in my view. But I guess what we are all trying to avoid is planting in our children the idea that pleasing us, or anyone, is the source of their identity, or the reason to do, or not do, any certain thing. We all want them to have a strong connection to their deepest self, and their own needs and passions, and be able to act out of those, instead of out of a need for approval. And I personally think there are a lot of ways to help them learn that, not the least of which is talking with them about it when they are old enough. So these little 'slip-ups' and praise when they are young are not such a big deal I think. And I would rather they feel praise from me then constant guilt and second-guessing in my parenting, because then those emotions are what they might mold themselves around, and be just as over-hard on themselves.
    In general, I think we need to give ourselves a break. It's somewhat ironic to me that in some cases conscious/mindful parenting has become just as judgmental and guilt-inducing as the methods it sought to replace. How about we start a 'do-your-best-love-your-kids-try-and-be-mindful-no-guilt' parenting trend?

  4. i very much agree with the idea that our kids happiness will be stronger if we can manage to not make them overly-dependant on our approval. it makes me shudder to think of parents exaggerating their negative emotions to get the kid to "behave." that said, i do tend to err on the side of love and praise. i honestly don't see the harm in telling your child, "good job sweetie!" basically, i think love is good for them. but i suppose the point is here, we should be loving them consistently and not just when they do something we want them to do.

    another thing i try to do is to avoid prasing outcome. like when she's working on a puzzle, i try to say encouraging and affirming words for her effort alone. regardless of her getting the puzzle piece to actually fit. i read a good article recently on outcome-focused kids. that when they become too focused on needing to get things "right", they can be more easily frustrated and not want to do things that are challenging for them.

    my hope is that we can present that difficult and challenging things are fun and not yucky things we'd rather throw on the floor~~

  5. mommymystic I like your 'do-your-best-love-your-kids-try-and-be-mindnful-no-guilt' parenting suggestion!

    Seems like we all agree that the ideal of self-validation is much harder for our little one's to achieve when constant praise is offered. Logically it is all pretty clear for me...It is just that even though I parent in a conscious way, I still find myself praising at times (maybe when I am more tired and less focused) and I guess this comes from my own childhood experience, something maybe the next generation of mothers do not have to deal with???
    Reflecting on this some more, I guess I need to work more on my inner critic and maybe on giving myself a break...some more sleep might help too! But like I said, this really deserves more thought so I will get back to it sometime soon and I look forward to reading your post too Mon.

  6. Of course there are worse things than praise, but I think what you are getting at is the extreme behavior management of directing a child through consistent positive or negative response. I've witnessed that in several situations, and it is something to be concerned about. However...most of us are just somewhere in the middle. I think it's most important to be natural. Sometimes I am very excited about something my child - or another - has done, and the "wow, you did its" just come out. Sometimes he does something that he is proud of/uncertain of, and I don't respond, but quietly let him experience it. That's life. I praise my husband ("I'm so proud to be with someone who....")....it's all in how it's done, right?

  7. I think it is very unfortunate for anyone to feel guilty for praising their child. It is sad that people are so inflexible in their dogmas that they would disapprove of someone who differed. I think that in doing what feels right, you are doing the best for your child. But I know how hard it is not to compare yourself to others!

  8. A thought just occurred to me: How damaging is praise if we never use the opposite end--put-downs? If we never use negativity to make them feel bad about doing things we don't like, then I think using praise won't be as damaging.

    Kicking the habit of praise is difficult. I find it easier to use some sort of replacement response, and get used to using the replacement response. In your case, I would have either smiled really big or laughed, sharing the child's joy, or I might say, "You stacked the blocks!"

    By the way, I see a lot of mindful parents who use praise and I think no less of them. You're still cool!

  9. As an early years teacher I was trained to use praise for a number of reasons...
    just a few are:
    *to create a culture of harmony in the group
    *to give a clear message about what is and what is not appropriate behaviour towards one another
    *to build children's healthy self concept and self esteem.
    My work is now in creative arts therapy and I am so often companioning clients who have little or no self esteem. As human beings we are intersubjective. We learn about ourselves through our experiences with eachother. If in childhood, that doesn't include a healthy dose of "You're positively amazing at building, darling!", for example, then I feel personally as a parent that I am not doing my job.
    Just my thoughts. It feels right to me to build a healthy self concept in children. Even as adults, I ask, who doesn't react harmoniously and therefore beaming with health after a compliment from someone near and dear??