Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Too much of a good thing?

“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.” B. F. Skinner


Do you think there is such a thing as too much positive reinforcement?

If so, I think I would be guilty of that.

As a mom, I love to teach my children. The alphabet, numbers, shapes, colours. I love to see them dance to music, sing along with a song, clap their hands, laugh. I get such enjoyment from seeing them happy and active and learning. And I'm always praising them.

My oldest son, who is turning 4 this summer, is learning to write letters. Every time I see him write a letter I get giddy with excitement, practically jumping up and down from joy.

"Oh my GOD, Christos, good for you! Way to go! That is THE MOST perfect letter C I have ever seen in my entire life! I'm going to frame this! You're the best ever!"


Seriously. That's me. And it's genuine. I'm that happy.

And I'm not quiet, either, at the park. Recently, my son climbed the 'climbing wall' all my himself.

"Christos! I can't believe you just did that ALL BY YOURSELF! GOOD FOR YOU! I'm SO proud of you! Yay! Yay! yay!"

(I wonder what other moms must have thought about me? Ah well, who cares?)

And even when he is being nice to his brother (All the time. I swear. Okay, not really.) I get happy. He is a great older brother, but sometimes, he hates sharing. And he'll 'push' poor little Dimitry, or yell at him and make him cry. This makes me sad, and I tell Christos what he did was wrong, and I comfort my baby and so on. But when he's nice and he let's him use his markers, or gives him something to play with, or talks nicely to him (sweetest thing, ever, to hear him talking to his brother...) I get very happy.

"Christos, I'm so happy that you are being so nice to Dimitry! You are the BEST BIG BROTHER EVER! I'm so proud of you!"

And when he says to me: "Mommy, I feel like biting you." And I say: "Absolutely not!" and he says, in the sweetest little voice ever: "Please mommy? Just one time? I'll do it very gentle..." I get happy. Because he did say please.

"Okay, honey. You can bite me, but very softly. Thank you for saying please!"

And then he gives me the softest ever little kiss on my arm. I do have a loving child! And I am an over-enthusiastic mom, to say the least...

15 comments:

anya said...

I can go a little nuts with the praise too! It's just another way I tell my boys I love them and think they are amazing.

Kelly said...

There is such a thing as too much positive reinforcement but I think you are doing a good job of being specific in your praise and only rewarding the good stuff.

Amy said...

I'm apply praise quite liberally around here too. That being said, I do also want to instill in my kids intrinsic motivation for sharing, playing well, coloring, learning, etc. I don't think it hurts to choose your words a bit more carefully, or focus more on how your child feels about what they've done. So more of,

"How does it feel to climb SO HIGH, Christos?!"

"It must make you feel nice/proud/happy when you share with your brother! Look how happy he is!!"

"You did such a GREAT JOB drawing that 'C' I bet you'll be drawing the WHOLE ALPHABET soon. Which letter do you want to draw next??"

Your boys will still feel your love and excitement, but might also learn that doing good is a reward in and of itself, not just a way to get praise from mom.

Christy said...

I get a little over-ridiculous too with praising my son - I guss it's because we truly are that excited about the things they are doing!

I think the only time I try not to praise too much is when they are doing something that I think they are supposed to do. I tell him it makes me happy and I'm proud but I don't want him to start doing things jsut to make me happy, I want him to do them because he wants to do it for himself. IF that makes sense at all....

Paging Doctor Mommy said...

I too am overly enthusiastic and praise Reagan constantly. But I draw the line at allowing her to bite me!

BeachMama said...

I used to go nuts like that. Somewhere along the line it drifted down a little and now is reserved for special moments. I mean, I praise my kids whenever they do something great, but the giddy, jumping up and down is reserved for special occaisons.

Chantal said...

I do praise my guys a lot as well. I think it is important. But I do also try to turn it back on them, like "You should feel proud about this". I don't know if it works but I do it anyhow. Andrea at Fishbowl posted an article a while back about how we can overdo it with praise. I will try and find it for you.

Lady Mama said...

I'm totally the same - praising everything my toddler does, regardless how small! I can't stop myself. Too funny about him asking nicely to bite you!

OHmommy said...

Awww.... you are so sweet. What a sweet post.

2 Little Irish Boys said...

I love the praise thing!! The things they do are really a big deal--writing a letter is great--I am just giddy when my boys do something I find it amazing!!! I think you are an awesome mom!!!

Tiaras & Tantrums said...

I AM THE SAME EXACT WAY!!! I tell you - the power of praise!! I DO NOT hold back at all - I never heard one word of encouragement while I was growing up and I will NOT do that to my kids! I want them to know that I AM proud of them and that they ARE awesome!

Jessica said...

I think you're spot on! It's fun for us as parents to have a little party over the tiniest, littlest thing, isn't it?

Potty training must be hysterical in your house! hahahah

Loukia said...

Jessica... hahaha...

Suzanne said...

OMG, best article ever! I laughed through the whole thing, because I know you, and I can picture you perfectly saying all those things. You're awesome! And no, there's no such thing as too much positive reinforcement. Good for you!

Loukia said...

Suzanne I love you and I miss you! We better be seeing eachother in July. I need a Suzanne laugh fest so badly!

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