Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Life As We Know It

A snapshot or three of life for us right now... a blooming garden, trinkets from afar, trips away and growing boys.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

5 Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!'

By Alfie Kohn
NOTE: This article was published in Young Children, September 2001;and, in abridged form (with the title "Hooked on Praise"), in Parents Magazine, May 2000.
Hang out at a playground, visit a school, or show up at a child’s birthday party, and there’s one phrase you can count on hearing repeatedly: "Good job!" Even tiny infants are praised for smacking their hands together ("Good clapping!"). Many of us blurt out these judgments of our children to the point that it has become almost a verbal tic. Plenty of books and articles advise us against relying on punishment, from spanking to forcible isolation ("time out"). Occasionally someone will even ask us to rethink the practice of bribing children with stickers or food. But you’ll have to look awfully hard to find a discouraging word about what is euphemistically called positive reinforcement. Lest there be any misunderstanding, the point here is not to call into question the importance of supporting and encouraging children, the need to love them and hug them and help them feel good about themselves. Praise, however, is a different story entirely. Here's why.
1. Manipulating children. Suppose you offer a verbal reward to reinforce the behavior of a two-year-old who eats without spilling, or a five-year-old who cleans up her art supplies. Who benefits from this? Is it possible that telling kids they’ve done a good job may have less to do with their emotional needs than with our convenience? Rheta DeVries, a professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, refers to this as "sugar-coated control." Very much like tangible rewards – or, for that matter, punishments – it’s a way of doing something to children to get them to comply with our wishes. It may be effective at producing this result (at least for a while), but it’s very different from working with kids – for example, by engaging them in conversation about what makes a classroom (or family) function smoothly, or how other people are affected by what we have done -- or failed to do. The latter approach is not only more respectful but more likely to help kids become thoughtful people. 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. A "Good job!" to reinforce something that makes our lives a little easier can be an example of taking advantage of children’s dependence. Kids may also come to feel manipulated by this, even if they can’t quite explain why.
2. Creating praise junkies. To be sure, not every use of praise is a calculated tactic to control children’s behavior. Sometimes we compliment kids just because we’re genuinely pleased by what they’ve done. Even then, however, it’s worth looking more closely. Rather than bolstering a child’s self-esteem, praise may increase kids’ dependence on us. The more we say, "I like the way you…." or "Good ______ing," the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval. Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher at the University of Florida, discovered that students who were praised lavishly by their teachers were more tentative in their responses, more apt to answer in a questioning tone of voice ("Um, seven?"). They tended to back off from an idea they had proposed as soon as an adult disagreed with them. And they were less likely to persist with difficult tasks or share their ideas with other students.In short, "Good job!" doesn’t reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK. Surely this is not what we want for our daughters and sons.
3. Stealing a child’s pleasure. Apart from the issue of dependence, a child deserves to take delight in her accomplishments, to feel pride in what she’s learned how to do. She also deserves to decide when to feel that way. Every time we say, "Good job!", though, we’re telling a child how to feel. To be sure, there are times when our evaluations are appropriate and our guidance is necessary -- especially with toddlers and preschoolers. But a constant stream of value judgments is neither necessary nor useful for children’s development. Unfortunately, we may not have realized that "Good job!" is just as much an evaluation as "Bad job!" The most notable feature of a positive judgment isn’t that it’s positive, but that it’s a judgment. And people, including kids, don’t like being judged.I cherish the occasions when my daughter manages to do something for the first time, or does something better than she’s ever done it before. But I try to resist the knee-jerk tendency to say, "Good job!" because I don’t want to dilute her joy. I want her to share her pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want her to exclaim, "I did it!" (which she often does) instead of asking me uncertainly, "Was that good?"
4. Losing interest. "Good painting!" may get children to keep painting for as long as we keep watching and praising. But, warns Lilian Katz, one of the country’s leading authorities on early childhood education, "once attention is withdrawn, many kids won’t touch the activity again." Indeed, an impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a "Good job!"In a troubling study conducted by Joan Grusec at the University of Toronto, young children who were frequently praised for displays of generosity tended to be slightly less generous on an everyday basis than other children were. Every time they had heard "Good sharing!" or "I’m so proud of you for helping," they became a little less interested in sharing or helping. Those actions came to be seen not as something valuable in their own right but as something they had to do to get that reaction again from an adult. Generosity became a means to an end.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.
5. Reducing achievement. As if it weren’t bad enough that "Good job!" can undermine independence, pleasure, and interest, it can also interfere with how good a job children actually do. Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with. Why does this happen? Partly because the praise creates pressure to "keep up the good work" that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because their interest in what they’re doing may have declined. Partly because they become less likely to take risks – a prerequisite for creativity – once they start thinking about how to keep those positive comments coming. More generally, "Good job!" is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviors that can be seen and measured. Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise, or as a way of making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future. *Once you start to see praise for what it is – and what it does – these constant little evaluative eruptions from adults start to produce the same effect as fingernails being dragged down a blackboard. You begin to root for a child to give his teachers or parents a taste of their own treacle by turning around to them and saying (in the same saccharine tone of voice), "Good praising!" Still, it’s not an easy habit to break. It can seem strange, at least at first, to stop praising; it can feel as though you’re being chilly or withholding something. But that, it soon becomes clear, suggests that we praise more because we need to say it than because children need to hear it. Whenever that’s true, it’s time to rethink what we’re doing.
What kids do need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. "Good job!" is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us. This point, you’ll notice, is very different from a criticism that some people offer to the effect that we give kids too much approval, or give it too easily. They recommend that we become more miserly with our praise and demand that kids "earn" it. But the real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.
So what’s the alternative? That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, "Good job!" isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, "Good job!" won’t help. If we’re praising positive actions as a way of discouraging misbehavior, this is unlikely to be effective for long. Even when it works, we can’t really say the child is now "behaving himself"; it would be more accurate to say the praise is behaving him. The alternative is to work with the child, to figure out the reasons he’s acting that way. We may have to reconsider our own requests rather than just looking for a way to get kids to obey. (Instead of using "Good job!" to get a four-year-old to sit quietly through a long class meeting or family dinner, perhaps we should ask whether it’s reasonable to expect a child to do so.) We also need to bring kids in on the process of making decisions. If a child is doing something that disturbs others, then sitting down with her later and asking, "What do you think we can do to solve this problem?" will likely be more effective than bribes or threats. It also helps a child learn how to solve problems and teaches that her ideas and feelings are important. Of course, this process takes time and talent, care and courage. Tossing off a "Good job!" when the child acts in the way we deem appropriate takes none of those things, which helps to explain why "doing to" strategies are a lot more popular than "working with" strategies. And what can we say when kids just do something impressive? Consider three possible responses:* Say nothing. Some people insist a helpful act must be "reinforced" because, secretly or unconsciously, they believe it was a fluke. If children are basically evil, then they have to be given an artificial reason for being nice (namely, to get a verbal reward). But if that cynicism is unfounded – and a lot of research suggests that it is – then praise may not be necessary.* Say what you saw. A simple, evaluation-free statement ("You put your shoes on by yourself" or even just "You did it") tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: "This mountain is huge!" "Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!"If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: "Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack." This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing.* Talk less, ask more. Even better than descriptions are questions. Why tell him what part of his drawing impressed you when you can ask him what he likes best about it? Asking "What was the hardest part to draw?" or "How did you figure out how to make the feet the right size?" is likely to nourish his interest in drawing. Saying "Good job!", as we’ve seen, may have exactly the opposite effect. This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful. We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life -- or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head? It’s not a matter of memorizing a new script, but of keeping in mind our long-term goals for our children and watching for the effects of what we say. The bad news is that the use of positive reinforcement really isn’t so positive. The good news is that you don’t have to evaluate in order to encourage.
Copyright © 2001 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact page at

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Story of Stuff

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
Find out more at The Story of Stuff.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Other Side of the Glass

Finally, A Birth Film For Fathers.

This is a ten minute YouTube version of the fund raising video for the film, "The Other Side of the Glass. "An 18 minute version, the Introduction, is available on my blog, Hospital Birth Debate for a donation of $15 or more. The complete fund raiser trailer is an 18 minute INTRODUCTION that expands upon the information presented in this trailer. It will provide the basic information men and women need to have to make birth safer -- wherever they give birth. It is designed for women and men to present to their caregiver -- midwife, nurse, or doctor; and for childbirth educators, midwives and doctors to show to expectant men and women. The 18 minute Introduction will be the beginning of the final long-version film. The final full-length film will provide the entire story with experts sharing their knowledge and science to support the premise of the film: Babies are fully conscious, fathers are disempowered by the medical machine but can become empowered with this information to protect their babies during birth. Finally, and significantly, most of us were born surrounded by people who had no clue about how aware and feeling we were. This trailer triggers a lot of emotions for people if they have not considered the baby's needs and were not considered as a baby. The final film will include detailed and profound information about the science-based, cutting-edge therapies for healing birth trauma.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

National Caesarean Awareness Day

Wishing love and healing to all those affected by caesarean.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Figures Mask True Pregnancy Death Rate

From the Sydney Morning Herald

THE number of women who die as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth may be nearly twice as high as shown in official figures, which capture only one-third of suicides in the year after giving birth, according to NSW analysis that reveals the true toll of post-natal depression. Suicide was the leading cause of death between six weeks and a year after giving birth or having a termination, followed by violence and heart attacks, according to an examination by researchers from the University of NSW of a seven-year period ending in 2001. Each of the 76 deaths during the period was classified as being probably linked - either directly or indirectly - to the recent pregnancy."Many of these deaths were among vulnerable women post-pregnancy and are an important group of often preventable deaths," said the leader of the study, Elizabeth Sullivan, from the University's National Perinatal Statistics Unit. Official statistics only link death with recent pregnancy if it occurs within six weeks of the pregnancy ending - the point at which women are usually discharged from formal maternity services, Associate Professor Sullivan wrote in the Australian And New Zealand Journal Of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Her findings showed monitoring should continue beyond the six-week period, "in recognition of the ability of modern medical care to delay death following severe complications and of the importance of deaths from mental illness in the year following pregnancy and childbirth". She matched state death records against records of new mothers and found 23 suicides that occurred after six weeks. In addition to the 76 who died later in the first year, Associate Professor Sullivan found 97 died within six weeks of their pregnancy ending, including 15 who had not been previously recorded in the state's maternal death statistics - probably because doctors did not mention the recent pregnancy on death certificates. James King, an obstetrician and a past chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Maternal Mortality, said the NSW analysis highlighted inadequacies in Australia's system for recording pregnancy-related deaths. Professor King said the change in the demographic profile of mothers - who were now more likely to be older, overweight and to have a caesarean section than previous generations - meant accurate surveillance of death and serious ill health was essential. The current system of compiling inconsistent state records into a national report was unreliable. Monitoring of pregnancy-related deaths has been the responsibility of federal health department agencies, and its future funding is uncertain. In a preface to the most recent national report on the issue, the director of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Penny Allbon, wrote that it was "concerning that no resources have been identified to sustain and improve this reporting in the future". A professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Australian National University and president of Women's Hospitals Australasia, David Ellwood, said accurate reporting would require statutory powers for investigators to request medical records from state health departments, to independently assess the cause of death.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Technology - For Better or For Worse?

Thanks Hathor, for saying what I wish I could say so eloquently without ranting.

Celebrations of Dad

This is my Dad. This photo was taken the week he became a Poppy. He became a dad nearly 25 years ago now.
Being my dad, we've had our moments. I am shamelessly known as a Daddy's Girl, but I have become my own woman in more recent years. He's home for the week, and spent Father's day with his youngest kids, and I felt a pang of jealousy, I think it's because I haven't seen him since January. No doubt when we do catch up we'll argue, and bicker, and laugh, and poke fun at each other, I'll mention his trucker gut, and he'll mention my arse. Grumpy bear, that's my Da. My own husband, he's celebrating Father's Day with his own father, and has taken the two big lads camping. They've gone to Yanchep (as I'd guessed they would). Tents, torches, and the new OOT (ute). Uncle Simon has joined them, with Taffleen. Grandad looked excited at the chance to get the boys out in the bush again, I bet they're having an absolute blast. How could time away with this bloke be anything but? It's last days for Fleen as an only child. Col is booked to have her baby this Tuesday, and I am guessing she's using this last moment of peace to catch her breath before the newborn crazy days. Dad's don't understand it, but they know it means something to us to be left in calm before the storm. So a day for Dads. Happy Father's Day you lot. From me and the boys.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Yawn - late night babble

It's been so long since I've really updated, it's late night here and I am pretty tired, but I'll give a brief run down of the last couple of months here. Today is the state election here, I did my bit and voted with all three kids hanging off me screaming. Was most fun. Was even more fun when Will nearly headbutted the Christian Democrats woman for trying to hand him a 'how to vote' sheet. Stifling the giggle was hard, she was asking for it. Kate and Ava stopped by for a night sometime back in July. Was great for the boys to spend time with their cousin, we don't get to see enough of her (are you reading this Kate?? Move closer would you!!). I changed jobs in June, still with the same agency, just a different portfolio, and I am now in town and working 2 days a week. It's a good seachange kind of thing. I like the work that I do, it's something that challenges me. I have to admit I am still learning about how to keep the domestic/career balance though and some days I do feel like either one or the other is weighing too heavily on the other. It is a shift that will allow for further flexibility in the future though, especially with being more selective about what days I work, and my hours are flexi, so the morning rush is relatively stress free without having a set start time. It's nice to know that the earlier I start the earlier I finish too! July came to a close with Tristan and Lochlain's birthdays. Sadly, Lochlain was really very unwell, and we didn't do much celebrating. Andrew's mum and dad left for overseas the day before, and I took him to the St Kilda vs West Coast footy game, he was pretty over it before half time so we trekked home on the train together. Big Brooke had Tristan and Will for a few hours so that Lolo and I could have some time together at the footy. Loch was sick for about 2 weeks with a nasty fever/rash/burst blood vessels in eyes thing, and then his skin started peeling. He's battled through it though. Was a bit scary for a while. Once he come good we had a good run of long days at the park and the beach, and the sun shone on for us, bringing us out of the depths of the winter blues. Tristan has discovered the most giant sandpit in the world, the beach. He's in love with it. Will is becoming more brave with the waves, and spends enough time in the water even when it's freezing that even I want to turn blue. Lochlain isn't too sure on the surf just yet, but he's keen to give it a go. Not bad for a kid who wouldn't walk on sand once upon a time. Mum stopped by in August a couple of times, she stayed here for a night. Was nice. We went out for dinner, and she came along to Will's kindy for drop off and he got to show her his special place. We went out for brekky at the marina and enjoyed coffee and laughs, it was really nice to just have a relaxed moment with mum, sometimes it feels like we miss out on the placid moments with each other. Crisis/illness/drama has no place in my life right now, and it was nice to just hang out with my mama. Tony was over east visiting his parents, so I got to selfishly have her all to myself. An overnight stay in Mandurah with Vic and the kids while Dad was away in Hedland was fantastic. The kids had a blast, and I enjoyed seeing them get dirty again, going home and putting their feet on the ground. It doesn't hurt that Vic always spoils me rotten with bloody good food! Mmmm green curry mmmmmmmmm *drool*. Lochlain hung off Rose the whole time we were there, wanting to do everything with her. Michael and Will play great together, they're both at an age now where they don't clash as much over who owns what, or who uses what, or the whole turn taking crap. It was great to see them just being mates. I am recovered (well 95%) from the most awful flu I have had in years. I spent nearly 2 weeks on the couch in the end. A good week of that saw me wishing I was dead. Throat made of razor blades, chills, shakes, aches, cramps, headaches, and just that general 'kill me now' sentiment. Bloody horrid. I am still fighting a lingering sinus infection, but I would take that any day over what I've just been through. With all the coughing that I did however, I have come to realise that I still have a pretty ace pelvic floor ;), who'd have thought it! In amongst sick kids, sick mama, changing jobs and having people drop by to stay, we've all managed to stay pretty sane. Andrew hasn't come up for air yet with work, but is looking forward to father's day tomorrow and spending some time with his dad and his boys. I dare say they'll go to Yanchep for a bit. I will try and get some photos loaded up soon, but as it is, I am just too tired tonight. I am going to hit the hay and snuggle my *not baby* Twistie. He smells so good. He'll feed and doze with me all night, and we'll be woken in the morning by two little men climbing in next to me to wake up their Twistie baby. *YAWN* Night night all.... stay safe, stay sane. x B