Re: DSM: RE: personal observations regarding praise and encouragement

David Rovner (
Sun, 31 Dec 2000 14:27:06 +0200

Concerning praise and encouragement, what can be more instructive than looking at
Evaluation -- Free at last.
I wish to direct your attention -- as a "thinking material" (chomer lemachshaba, in
Hebrew) -- to Evaluation, Free at last -- Sudbury Valley School, by Daniel Greenberg,
 If we are already talking about the subject, I'm sure you'll agree with me that this
material gives an excellent perspective on the subject:

[following I bring relevant excerpts (emphasis is mine.- D.R.)]:
        "One day I was playing catch with a six year old. Each time he threw, and each
time he tried to catch, I "encouraged" him: "Good Job"; "Nice throw"; "Great try."
Suddenly, he threw the ball at me angrily and shouted, "I don't want to play with you
any more. Your'e lying. I threw terribly; it wasn't at all good, and your'e a big faker."
        Of course he was right. And I was wrong. It was another valuable lesson for me
at school . . ."
        ". . . At the heart of Sudbury Valley is the policy that we don't rate people. We
don't compare them to each other, or to some standard we have set. For us, such an
        The school is not a judge. . ."
        ". . . And what we gain at school, as a bonus from our no-grading and no-rating
policy, is an atmosphere free of competition among students or battles for adult
approval. At Sudbury Valley, people help each other all the time. They have no reason
not to."
A child is not a cat, and dealing with children is not animal-training/taming, even
though public schools and governments, ALL OF THEM, and a lot of parents, think
they are allowed everything, including indoctrination (#@%&) ! !

---------- Original Message ----------

What fun. I enjoy all the thoughtful remarks from the Heartlight group
regarding encouragement. Made me think.

When I worked with retarded adults we scheduled and counted our encouraging
remarks. They were not sincere always, but at least we were beginning to
take notice of our own behaviors as we made a point of noticing their

More recently, with children, I consider whether to give praise 1) when the
child seems to come looking for it, and 2) when I am genuinely delighted and
wish to voice my interest. It seems these two forms of praise are how most
adults treat other adults.

My cat gets tons of praise. I wanted to take responsibility for the quality
of life I create for myself and the cat. So I considered that being
unresponsive in the cat's presence modeled arrogance and disdain. Being
aloof in the cat's presence affected both of us. I decided that the cat's
presence was a prompt for me to undo my heart of arrogance and disdain. I
began telling the cat she is appreciated and beautiful, and thanked her for
kind gestures (cat style hugs and kisses). She learned to reply when I
asked, "are you hungry?" and she gets her favorite catfood. When scratching
my favorite chair she gets roughed up playfully. Now she uses my favorite
chair to ask for play (not ideal, but its my own doing). So she has control
of food, play, and also asking for a door or window to be opened. The
results of all this are 1) a sense lightness and honor in a relationship of
mutual respect, 2) enhancement of my self-appreciation as an effect on
others, 3) enhancement of the cat's ability to get needs met in a human
environment, 4) the odd assortment of comments people make about an
extraordinary cat when they visit my house, 5) a sense of obligation to take
time for encouragement when this seems a distraction from my personal time
(but the distraction is probably time well spent).

My behavior regarding encouragement is being shaped over the years. It has
gone from rather condescending comments of flattery for my own benefit, to
praise in behalf of others for the sake of our relationship, to sincere
heartfelt responses for an intuited higher good. And this intuition is
evolving as I reconsider my perception in light of Joseph Pearce's comments
on studies of human development.

It is looking as though ideal encouragement is a mother's 100% attention to
an infant without any tension. Ideal encouragement is a safe,
free-to-adventure environment that expands with the child's abilities, with
a few safety and personal respect boundries, but no judgements, no anger, no
value system imposed (love and adventure are the only values, and, these are
for the sake of human development as an inborn value, Godsent if you will).
Ideal encouragement is adults welcoming a child into their environment as
100% play, and children welcoming adults into their play as equals. No
judgements, no values, just imagination and adventure. Again the adventure
expands as ability expands. Ideal encouragement is the playful way adults
learned in childhood to go about tasks with enthusiam and cooperation, and
so they share this with others at a job or in the community, and at home
with their children. It is about love. Fight or flight never gets developed
as a way of life. In its place are models who demonstrate the functionality
of empathy, honesty, creativity and following your joy.

Did you see Robin Williams in Jack? The movie was on tv tonight. Robin plays
a kid who grows too fast into an adult body. I enjoyed the contrast between
the children's love of adventure and the adults' love of value judgements.

(It isn't that values don't develop, but because we choose not to value what
does not work, fight-flight as a value system does not develop. What does
develop is open to what does work better and better.)

The other day it was as if the cat noticed my lack of ability to mimic her
growl, so she changed her voice to mimic my deep rumbling vocalization. I
was totally flattered.


on 12/20/00 10:04 PM, at

> Hello all,
> I guess I'm "old school" afterall. After reading the conversations and
> opinions regarding praise and encouragement, I made some personal
> observations at my school.
> I have numerous students visiting me in my classroom throughout the day,
> just to sit and "gab." I found that I have the habit of finding something
> nice to say about them, either something I saw them do or heard them say that
> was "good." Their overall behaviors always improve in my classes, their self
> esteem is demonstrably improved, and their undesirable negative behaviors
> disolve.
> My boss's 2 year old son was in a room with a single, well carpeted
> step. He jumped it! I said "Wow, you're a good jumper!" He joyfully jumped
> it at least a dozen more times while I talked with his father. At the end of
> our short conversation, I said loudly to his father, "Your son is really good
> at jumping!" The little guy started jumping like a gazelle, back and forth,
> back and forth, smiling the whole time. I couldn't help myself, it just came
> out of my mouth. We all enjoyed it.
> I noticed the frequency of praise and encouragement I shared throughout
> the day. It pleased me to do so. It pleased the children to hear it. I
> have a great relationship with my students. The "troubled teens" come into
> class and do well in a way that is enjoyable for all. Then they graduate and
> successfully go on to high school, college and careers.
> When I stopped to put gas in my car, the clerk smiled and commented on my
> outfit looking nice. I want to be dressed nice when I go there next time. I
> want to get gas there again.
> Many of you consider these things negative external behavior
> manipulations. I consider them... pleasurable. They work, easily.
> What are the results of your focus on intrinsic self satisfaction? I'm
> really having a hard time trying to understand how my silence would have had
> the success rate my caring created.
> Marlene

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