This week I've been reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. The first I heard of it was from reading blogs and forum posts from people who mentioned that they not only didn't punish their children, but avoided praising them too. At first this idea appalled me. Surely children need as much praise as possible to be self confident? Since reading this book, I realise that the exact opposite is probably true. I have seen first hand while teaching that children who are frequently praised are often more tentative when approaching their work. My own experience as a child, and even now as an adult is that I am rarely confident in my actions unless they are validated by others.
If the reward of your actions is praise from others, it devalues the intrinsic rewards of the action. I would hope that Alice will share her toys because she respects her playmates, not because she gets a beaming smile and an enthusiastic 'Well done for sharing!' from me.
Lack of praise does not equate to lack of love. I constantly shower Alice with kisses and cuddles and tell her how much I love her. I hope she'll never be in doubt of that. It is hard to break the habits of a lifetime, and a 'Good girl!' occasionally escapes my lips, but I am getting better at commenting on what she has done instead. 'You climbed right to the top of the stairs!' allows her to see that I'm interested in her achievements, but still lets her have her own sense of pride.
I'm still very much at the beginning of this journey and learning alternatives to the traditional carrot and stick approach. I certainly don't aim to be permissive, but I believe there are more alternatives than is often made out. Alice is still a baby and both of us have a lot to learn. As long as I maintain the respect for her that I would give any adult, and make a point of ensuring she knows that I always love her, I hopefully won't go too far wrong.