ARTICLES

Popular Parenting Myths No. 2: If Children Like What They Did, Is That Enough?
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D.

www.PerfectingParentingPress.com 

Parenting advice has to make sense to be worth considering – but it has to have a lot more to it than that. In the 25 years that I’ve been a parenting psychologist guiding parents with typical childrearing issues, I’ve seen some advice elevated to an absolute belief – never examined, just accepted as truth.

Parents are finding that some of these beliefs need to be held up to the light, because the results don’t live up to the promises. Some myths need to be updated and corrected to help parents do the thoughtful, wise, validated childrearing job they’re trying to.

Myth
: When your child has created or achieved something, what counts is that he is pleased with what he has accomplished – no one else’s opinion matters.

It’s natural – when a young child does something like drawing a picture, building a tower, writing his name, or making a fruit salad – for him to want his parents, teachers or other adults to notice what he did. Children say “Lookit!” or “Is it good?” or “Do you like it?” or “Is mine the best?” Children do this because they’re looking for your opinion or your praise or your attention. That’s typical, and should be expected of young children.

In the last 10 years, parents have been dissuaded from responding with natural answers like “I love it,” “It’s beautiful,” “It looks so yummy,” “You did a good job” or “It’s great.” Instead, parents are being taught to emphasize the child’s pride in her accomplishment in order to convey to her that it’s what she thinks that’s important, not what anyone else thinks. So parents are ducking answering their kids by asking them, “What do you think of it? Do you like it?” When kids say to parents “Lookit!” or “Is it good?” parents are saying, “It doesn’t matter what I think. It only matters whether you’re proud of it.”

Reality:  Young children don’t have the life experience to make a judgment about their achievements. They need to rely on caring and loving adults to respond kindly with the positives, and, if appropriate for that child and that situation, with some suggestions for improvement, such as using more than one fruit in the fruit salad or how to write the letters of his name more clearly.
We want our children to show us their achievements and enjoy our praise with excitement, and learn from our corrections. We want them to value the views of the important and responsible adults in their lives – not to exempt them from our standards. The best way for children to develop standards for themselves is to get feedback from their parents and other key adults and incorporate it into how they live their lives. These standards become such an important part of themselves that they know how to tell a good job from a not-so-good one, and they are more likely to want to do well and try hard.

By the time they reach their 20s, most people have internalized the standards they have developed, built on the foundation created by their parents, and they feel good when they’ve met those combined standards. We really don’t have to worry that by praising our young children we’ll be making them dependent on us. Our 30-year-olds aren’t going to run to us to seek approval for their accomplishments. If parents don’t convey their standards, children grow up without the benefit of their parents’ values and are less likely to set sufficiently high expectations for themselves in life or feel as confident about their judgment.

Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and child development for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?, I Like To Eat Treats,  I Don't Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and I'm Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for preschoolers and a manual for parents. Her new series is for elementary school childen and their parents. The first book is Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me? (2015). For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit www.PerfectingParentingPress.com. To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to AnnyeRothenberg.com.

Perfecting Parenting Press 2015