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My husband and I are often complimented on our children's behavior and demeanor. People think that we discipline them. We don't. It is ourselves we discipline.


We meet our children's needs, provide for their protection, and expose them to life's possibilities. We do not, however, meddle in their play, their learning, their creativity, or any other form of growth. We love, hug, feed, share, listen, respond, and participate when asked. Yet, we keep our children free of insult and manipulation resulting from "helpful" comments and ideas - influences to which children are so sensitive in their state of dependency.

Parental Self-Discipline

This type of discipline is not easy. Not only does our society not support it, but the temptation to break the "rules" lives within us. The drive to intervene in children's activities is rooted in our upbringing and reinforced in our culture.


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Q: I have read your article in Mothering magazine about the harm of praise and became concerned. If I stop praising my child, he loses interest. What can I do instead of praise?

A: There is nothing to do "instead" of praise. Words that intend to make the child feel and do what we want are manipulative and carry the same price as other coercions: loss of intrinsic motivation, loss of self-trust, dependency on approval, damaged parent child relationship, lowered self-esteem, insecurity, disinterest, dishonesty, getting by with as little as possible, fear of challence, and more. This does not imply that we become indifferent; on the contrary, when free of the intent to impact the child's emotions, actions or behavior, a parent can generously express ...

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Q: I understand your guidance not to praise my child's achievements and to validate his expressed self-appreciation instead. However, can I praise him when he helps me, and, can I give positive feedback when he practices his music?


A: We want to let a child know that we appreciate his help, and we wish to give useful feedback when asekd for it. Praise is an evaluation and so it misses these intentions; anytime we give our opinion or judgment (no matter how great) on the behavior or accomplishment of another, we appear as though we are one up, which is the reason it is perceived as patronizing. Such praise is likely to elicit annoyance, shoulder shrug or rolled eyes - because it does not meet the need of the child for respect and equality. If such praise is accepted, it can lead to dependency and insecurity as explained in part one of three article series.

When your child serves your needs...

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We need not hold our awe inside. Appreciation and love (not praise - which is evaluation), can be shared abundantly. Ask yourself what touches you more, when someone says to you, "You are great" or when she says, "I feel inspired by your words." It is the emotional impact that we make on the people we love that matters to us the most. Express your love and appreciation unconditionally when one-on-one with your child, or, when a child shows a need for recognition in her worth, (often through disturbing behavior.)

Use those precious moments when you feel a deep bond. Share whatever is present and real for you at the moment; a smile, a hug, an action and/or words. Instead of vague expressions of praise share how you feel and how her presence inspires you. While taking a nature walk together you can say, "I feel joyful walking with you," or, "Your interest in nature inspires me." while helping your child wash his hair, "I love washing your hair, I feel so close to you." Giving full attention is one of the loudest ways to express love and recognition of your child's importance in your life. Do so by listening, watching and serving her with joy (rather than annoyance).

When you don't mean it, don't say it. Finishing a phone call with a mechanical, "I love you," or "You are great," lacks respect and drains the meaning out of these words. If your child rolls her eyes or seems annoyed when you say something wonderful about her, you are probably not respectful of her preferences ("not here Mom," or, "not now") or, you are dishing out praise instead of sharing your feelings.

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