Creative Child

Is Praise Bad for Children?

by Rebecca Eanes

Due in large part to the work of Alfie Kohn, American philanthropist and author of 13 books, parents and teachers have begun to see the downfall of praise.  Kohn gives 5 problems created by praise in his article, 5 Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!' Here, he states that praise manipulates children in that we often use praise as a form of sugar-coated control to get children to comply with our wishes. For example, saying “good job” when the child cleans up the art supplies is not for the child's benefit, but for our own because we say it in the hopes that the verbal reward will make her want to clean them up again the next time. He says, “The reason praise can work in the short run is that young children are hungry for our approval. But we have a responsibility not to exploit that dependence for our own convenience.” 

The second objection he states is that praise creates “praise junkies,” children who come to rely on our judgments of them rather than forming their own judgments. Thirdly, he argues that praise steals a child's pleasure because rather than take pride in her own work based upon her own judgment that it is good, she learns to only take pleasure when we give our approval. Fourth, Kohn says praise causes a child to lose interest. Once we stop praising the child's achievements, he will lose the desire to continue the activity. He states, “Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.” Lastly, he asserts that praise reduces achievement. He believes praise creates a pressure to “keep up the good work” that causes children to eventually stumble and achieve less. 

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