Taking WOW out of our dictionaries

22 May, 2012

Ramona has found the word WOW. It spirals out of her mouth, as she opens her jaws wide, the WOW taking over her whole scrunched up face. Unlike other little kids Ramona takes a new word and hones her skill. Instead of picking them up and tossing them round, she’ll discover it and repeat it for three days straight. It will be the last thing she says at night, and the first thing on her lips in the morning. We are hearing WOW alot and it is really most adorable! 

The words she says are often the things she loves – so duck and clip clop (horse, yeah?) came pretty quick, but she also is a bit of a reflection of ourselves – a great resounding HIYA was her first audible a utterance. I didn’t think my Welsh genes revealed themselves that often but hearing Ramona trundle around saying HIYA at every opportunity has corrected that thought! Just yesterday Ramona was having a leetle bit of a tantrum on the floor when our housemate walked past – Ramona paused bawling  to yell out a very polite and cheerful HIYA, and then carried on.

So with her bopping about  WOWing everything, I have realised just how much I say it myself.

And I’m not sure I want to.

Particularly when it comes to the things Ramona does.

I haven’t read much on the subject, just enough to open that old Parenting Can O Worms, but I feel praise has gotten away with us a little. (One article that made me think was by Naomi Aldort and Aptly named “Getting out of the Way”- do read it, if you have moment.)

We are told to praise our children at every step, and I hear adults crying “Aren’t you clever!” at the most simple of things kids do. Here are my jumbled thoughts on the matter:

  • I don’t want her to learn to do things in order to get affirmation from someone else.
  • I want her to do things for the sake of enjoyment.
  • I want to give her creativity free reign- to not put my judgement (good or bad) on her activities and drawings.
  • I don’t want to use words to manipulate her into doing the things I want her to do.
  • Want her to be absolutely assured of my love no matter what her actions are
  • Want to be interested in the things Ramona does – I want her to sense my enthusiasm and care.
I love the image of our children marching to the beat of their own drum, growing up assured in their own imagination and hopes, not bumping around on the words of other people. Nurturing this kind of person begins now I think,  as we put our own WOWing aside.

As Aldort puts it “Getting out of the way gives us an opportunity to become curious observers. At the same time, it frees us of power struggles and initiates an approach to parenthood that is infinitely more enjoyable and fulfilling.”

We are trying to hold back on giving her constant praise, or saying “Clever/ Big/ Good girl” in order to get her to finish her dinner (or something). 

I need to find alternatives though! To show that interest, and to avoid manipulative talk, I need to dig around for what else I say. I am definitely going to try and reserve WOW for being awestruck by a forest, an ocean or a sky full of stars, rather than Ramona climbing up a frame or doing a wee on the potty.

Hmmmm. Are you trying to do this? What do you do? What do you think about it all? You can be totally honest, our family is. My mum is a hoot – Ramona will sit on a chair and mum will say “CLEVER GIRL!” then look at me, then back to Ramona with “I mean; how does this make you FEEL??!!”

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  • livingitlittle 22 May, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Wow – that’s cute. Funnily enough, both my girls said “hiya” too – we figured it was their approximation of “hello” because it’s not something we really tend to say and couldn’t work out why they said it, but then as their speech developed, they changed to “hello” instead. I’m fascinated by how kids learn to talk. Do you have words that have become part of your vocabulary based on the way Ramona says them? My youngest can’t say ‘cuddle’, but uses ‘duddle’ instead, so that’s how it’s known in our house now!

    • lulastic 22 May, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      I’m sure we will eventually! Because Ramona takes one week to accept a word into her vocab she only has about ten, all pronounced perfectly ha ha

  • Expat Mammy 22 May, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Mine has learn’t NO WAY which is most annoying, cool pic BTW

    • lulastic 22 May, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Ha, no way will probably be Ramona’s first two worder!

  • Ella S (@K_Pull) 22 May, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Have you read ‘unconditional parenting’ by Alfie Kohn? I haven’t but keep meaning to – I think it addresses exactly these kind of issues and from what I understand of it (without reading the book!) it does make a lot of sense for the reasons you describe!

  • Ella S (@K_Pull) 22 May, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    ps there’s anpther one called ‘raising our children, raising ourselves’ which again I haven’t read yet but is on my list – you may find it interesting also!

    • lulastic 22 May, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Yep, that’s Aldort. Both of these are on my ever increasing Must Read list! At the moment just getting by on their articles. Lazy, that!

  • ginacaro 22 May, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Very funny post, my little one is just the same, if she learns a new word then that is all I hear for days x

    • lulastic 22 May, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      Ah good, most of Ramona’s chums are churning em out!

  • goodskimpin 22 May, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    great post lucy. i see so many kids and adults who seem to need affirmation to survive ( and i’m guilty of this at times too). but everything i’ve read on psychology etc would say that being driven by intrinsic factors is so much healthier. imagine all the problems in this world that would be solved if we weren’t so driven by external carrots. eg investment bankers wouldn’t need $50 million bonuses, they’d just feel an internal pleasure at doing a good job. i wonder if warren buffett’s parents used the attachment theory ( or perhaps he was raised by a south american indian village)?

    • lulastic 22 May, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Yes, yes, yes. I hadn’t even thought about this in terms of world issues but it makes total sense.
      Funnily enough George Monbiot recently did a piece linking attachment theory with climate change – you must check it out.

  • jenna 22 May, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Wow! What a thought-provoking blog post! Er, I mean, how does it make you feel??????

    I kind-of get where you’re coming from. I do think it’s important to praise our children. I work in a special needs department of a secondary school (when i’m not wagging it on this maternity/parenting lark). I remember going to a teacher training day once and we had a man called Barry Hymer come in to give a talk. He was basically saying that we shouldn’t praise children for their finished results but for the fact that they’re doing it anyway. E.g. Not “that painting of a ladybird actually looks like a ladybird, that’s fantastic” but “that’s fantastic izzy, well done for painting, did you enjoy it?”.

    Its meant to be to do with us learning to do things in order to get praise for the outcome of it. Bazza said “when talking to students who had just taken exams and got good results, few when asked would admit to getting good results because they spent hours and hours revising. We are tought that we should be naturally talented (clever). When in reality most children need to revise to gain good grades”. I think he was saying that if we can encourage our kids by praising them just because they’ve done something not because they’ve done it right, they grow up more confident and less afraid of failure. They also learn to do things because it makes them happy, not because doing it right makes the old folks happy. It also encourages them to give things a go without being afraid that they won’t be the best at it but just because they might enjoy doing it.

    So the next time Ramona poos on your floor, congratulate her for being able to do one and ask her if she enjoyed it?!?!

    Its not as easy to do though, I am the worlds worst at only doing things I’m good at!

    Wow (oops, said it again). That was quite intellectual for me! It must be the glass of champers i’ve had, celebrating 1 year of marriage!

    • lulastic 23 May, 2012 at 7:42 pm

      Hehe, great comment, loved it.
      Yep, that Barry guy, I’ve read that perspective too, that when it comes to learning we need to emphasise that the muscle is a brain and that we can improve our capabilities. Thought that was interesting and while it seems contrary to the Kohn and Aldort philosophy I think it is along the same lines – we need to realise that our communication can have a powerful effect.

      • goodskimpin 23 May, 2012 at 8:45 pm

        From my reading on sports psychology, children at very young ages don’t need to receive high amounts of praise, as much as they to feel the enjoyment of the movement and spor, so the emphasis is on feel rather than external high fives. It’s not until they are entering the pre teen stage that positive reinforcement and constructive feedback like praise becomes key to their sporting development. I guess that’s kinda relevant. Sorry if that comment seems out of place on a parenting blog. lol

  • Saffron 23 May, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Wow, what a great post. Yep you’ll love Alfie Kohn (‘Unconditional Parenting’) among other brilliant books. Thankfully (for my children) I read when my 1st was a baby & it so helped to reaffirm what I think I inherintly felt. Do read! Loving the blog

    • lulastic 23 May, 2012 at 7:42 pm

      Thank you, so good to hear from you!

  • Saffron 23 May, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Oh and if you want a really meaty book about how the various styles of parenting have affected generations of children/adults, from nursemaids to the way the Nazi’s were parented to attachment parenting & it’s benefits, read ‘Parenting for a Peaceful World’ by Robin Grille. Tough read but think you would love…ps have ordered my resin!

    • lulastic 23 May, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Ooh that sounds intense!!!! I’d love it, will keep my eyes peeled.
      Let me know how your resin goes!

  • Valerie 23 May, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Is it possible to teach a 3 year old to respond, ‘please dont patronise me like a moron because I was able to follow a simple command’? lol Because the truth is, there is no getting away from it, and often its out of a lack of things to say or just habit (from strangers, at least). On the other hand, I heard a close family member say my little boy was spoilt to his face, while I was on my way upstairs. So, there are worse things than praise.

    • lulastic 23 May, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      Oh this comment made me chuckle then made me mad! How dare they say that to a little lad, so so sad – and for you of course. “spoiling” is an interesting one, most of the time it’s used it’s not a spoilt child at all just one who knows their own mind- which obviously can be frustrating but also admirable!

  • jenna 23 May, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Ok, so now i’m so aware of how much I use the word “wow”. Not just to my kids but just in general. I need a new word please……..

    • lulastic 23 May, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      Hehe, yeah I say it ALOT!!! Shall we go with say… Hmmmm as a bit more neutral?
      Also congratulations! (anniversary)

  • HuckyD 23 May, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Lulastic… love your site!!!!
    this is a really thought provoking blog. i am in the middle of a ‘positive parenting’ course at the moment. i have a 15 month old little man and wanted to know how to tackle the ‘terrible two’s’ before they actually happen. we have concentrated a lot of praising our children and i have to admit a lot of what they have said to us has made sense and has been working in our house. but it is primarily to praise our children, even for the little things. i.e. if our children are sitting there quietly playing very well, they ask us to recognise this good behaviour and praise them(calmly as to not distract them too much)…. or like my partner and i have taught our son to sit on the sofa to eat his lunch (dnt like the idea that he should be restrained to eat all the time) and he has done wonderfully learning this so whilst he is munching away i try to get him to recognise this fantastic behaviour by saying ‘ mummy loves how you are sitting so nicely…. are you enjoying your food?’.. i have to admit if he learns something new we do give him a round of applause which does go against the theory you were talking about, but we have noticed that even if we dnt clap he claps himself. and today for the first time he clapped someone else,us three went to a local field so we could soak up the beautiful day and his Daddy was hitting a few golf balls practicing his swing and everytime he hit the ball our son clapped him… it was such a wonderful sight to watch our little boy give someone else praise… but i do like what you have said about allowing our children to learn from their own enjoyment and not because they see that we have gained happiness from their actions. also what ‘goodskimpin’ said about the bankers working towards a reward is an excellent point to make

    • lulastic 24 May, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      Hello! Thanks for your comment! 🙂
      Awesome that you are doing a course, so impressed.
      I think that praise DOES work. It gets quick “results” but I think the question is whether it has a negative long term effect.
      I wonder if we need to put aside desires to have our kids do what we want in order for them to listen to their hearts and be themselves? x

      • jenna 24 May, 2012 at 10:05 pm

        I think the whole do I don’t I praise question is a toughie. On one hand you want your children to learn to do stuff because they enjoy it and not beva

      • HuckyD 25 May, 2012 at 11:51 am

        I have to agree with u here… iv def found that im now askin if my lil man is enjoyin himself n if he likes what he is doin…. i think im guna mix it up a bit 🙂 x

        • lulastic 26 May, 2012 at 8:09 am

          Good call, good call!