Posted by Eric Burdick on Sep 27, 2016 11:35:32 PM


Approximately one third of your child’s nutrition comes from snacks, it is important to make them count. It can be hard to find the balance between feeding kids healthy snacks and giving in to their culinary desires to keep the peace. If your schedule is anything like mine (and every other parent I know) you may not have time to make homemade whoopie pies out of beet juice and spinach, and even if you did, you would be rewarded with nasty comments, dirty glares and inevitably a meltdown if an alternative snack was not offered. So, lets save the time and beet juice and make some quick snacks that kids will eatJ

At a minimum, kids should have five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  In order to achieve this goal, fruits and vegetables need to be included with snacks and accessible to children. Healthy foods should be offered to growing kids about every 3 hours. One way to avoid the nagging of kids and their hunger is to have foods you are comfortable with them eating, in locations they can access them on their own. Consider keeping a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen table where young eaters can help themselves to apples, bananas, pears, grapes and oranges. Dedicate a lower kitchen cabinet to kid snacks such as raisons, whole grain crackers, nuts (if safe for your child), granola, the types of foods you typically say “yes” to. For taller children, an area in the refrigerator with fresh cut vegetables, cheese and low sugar yogurt.

 Whole foods are best for kids and easiest for us to prepare. Here are 10 healthy and quick snack options:

  1. Fresh cut vegetables with dip: carrots, cucumbers, peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower with salad dressing or hummus
  2. Fruit parfait: natural yogurt (dairy or non-dairy) with fresh fruit and granola
  3. Apples/ celery and peanut butter (or seed butter)
  4. Cut bananas topped with peanut butter (or seed butter) or yogurt and raisons
  5. Fruit and cheese kabobs
  6. Popsicles made with real fruit juice or fruit and yogurt blends
  7. Blue corn chips with fresh guacamole and salsa
  8. Milk (dairy or non-dairy) with graham crackers
  9. Triscuits with cheese and tomato or cucumber slices
  10. Whole wheat tortilla with melted cheese (quesadilla) with side of fresh melon

If you have time to bake, or put ingredients together consider making more than one batch and freezing for future quick options:

  1. 5 Ingredient Granola Bars @
  2. Healthy oatmeal cookies or oatmeal bars
  3. Whole grain muffins (lemon poppy seed, carrot, blueberry, apple)
  4. No bake vegan apricot energy bars @
  5. Baked potato wedges, or sweet potato fries, beet or kale chips (best when fresh and still warm)

Prepackaged snack tips:

  1. Look for just a few ingredients. I like Triscuits because they have just 3 ingredients.
  2. Avoid TBHQ and other preservative that have been linked to behavior and health concerns in children
  3. If it is labeled as a Fruit Snack but fruit is not the first ingredient, it should not be included as one of the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Avoid artificial flavors and colors.

Creating a Healthy Routine for a Healthy Life Starts with Bedtime

Posted by Eric Burdick on Aug 23, 2016 5:05:04 PM

One of the many struggles of parenthood includes being the enforcer of bedtime. It can be especially hard during the transition from summer break, back to school. The truth is, kids need sleep to be successful during the day. Below is the ammunition you need to reason your way through this battle to a peaceful resolution.

One tactic that can be successful with children is taking time to explain the reasons why the body needs to sleep. Here are four important things that happen while children sleep.

  1. Repair muscles and rejuvenate the body for the next day- if sleep is cut short the body will not feel rested and strong.
  2. Memory consolidation- time to organize and process the information collected throughout the day.
  3. Growth- the body releases hormones during sleep that regulate growth.
  4. Digestion- the body burns off toxins and completes digestion from the day while it sleeps. If the body does not have time to do this toxins may start to build up and gastrointestinal problem may begin to surface.

Below is a chart developed by Wilson Elementary in Kenosha, Wisconsin to determine if their students were getting the proper amount of rest. Age is listed on the column on the left, wake up time across the top and bed time beneath wake up time. You may be surprised to learn that a 5yr old still require 11.5hrs of sleep per night and a 12yr old is not yet an adult who can sneak by with 7hrs, they still need 9.45hrs. Keep in mind every child is different. If your child is showing signs of being tired (irritable, cranky, irrational) you may want to increase their sleep beyond what the chart recommends.

The bottom line is that kids need a night of uninterrupted sleep to leave their bodies and minds rejuvenated for the next day, and it is our responsibility as parents to make sure that it happens. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. Then we wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully in school and social activities.

If reasoning does not work with your child here are a few more tips:

  • Teach children about healthy sleep habits
  • Create a regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet and stress free.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom, stop screen time 2 hours prior to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and other sugary drinks and snacks.

Okay, maybe in won’t be that simple, but the benefit of putting them to bed on time out ways the initial fight or tantrum that may take place. Kids may be mad and mean in the evening when this routine is being established, but eventually they will wake up happy, rested and ready to succeed.

For more information and tips visit: National Sleep Foundation.



Topics: breathe

Government Week

Posted by Eric Burdick on Jul 24, 2015 2:49:42 PM

The older school-agers at Creative World in Huber Heights learned what it takes to be in an election and about Government. They chose two students to run for Class President. Throughout the week, they campaigned by making posters, passing out flyers in cubbies and designing bumper stickers for their two candidates. On Friday, they voted for the student they wanted to be Class President. The runner up became Vice President. The Class President is in charge of assigning classroom jobs, making sure the jobs get completed, running classroom meeting, helping with STAR Committee, and delegating responsibilities to the Vice President and the younger school-age representative.

The younger school-agers also learned about elections and the Government this week. They were split into a boy group and a girl group. The groups were asked to draw two mascots that represent Creative World Huber Heights. The boys decided on a superhero and a snake. They decided on a snake because they have seen snakes on some of our field trips. They chose a superhero because a lot of the children are interested in superheroes. The girls decided on a cheetah and a polar bear. They chose a cheetah because a lot of the girls wear cheetah print and they love the songs form the Cheetah Girls. They chose a polar bear because with the summertime heat, they are reminded of when it is cold. The children made buttons to wear to represent what mascot they wanted to win. They also made campaign posters for the Class President. On Friday, they voted for Class President and their mascot. The snake is our new mascot.


To end Government week, we asked State Representative Mike Henne to visit and talk to our students about the Government. Representative Henne talked about how laws are created and bicycle laws. He also discussed with the students about his role as a State Representative. The children got the chance to ask Representative Henne some questions. Some of the questions they asked him were: how he got elected, how many times he can be reelected, is he going to continue in the Government field, and where his office was located.


It was a very successful week! Our students learned a lot about our State and Federal Government and how it works. Our next hero that we will be learning about is Police Officers. We will have a visit from police officers to talk about bullying and safety.

A Message from Mr. Larry

Posted by Eric Burdick on May 10, 2013 3:00:00 PM

Hello Everyone,

Conscious Discipline is a lifelong journey, not a technique.  We make changes that start from within.  These changes heal our souls, strengthen our character and improve our will power, so we are able to do the same for the children in our care.  It takes time to make these changes and build new connections in our brains.  With practice, persistence, and forgiveness, you will find success.  You can do it!

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, we’re telling a child how to feel.

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 a child’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 love watching the occasions when a child manages to do something for the first time, or does something better than they have ever done it before. But I try to resist the knee-jerk tendency to say, Good job because I don’t want to dilute their joy. I want them to share their pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want them to exclaim, "I did it!" instead of asking me uncertainly, "Was that good?"

Conscious Discipline Twist:

Describing the act focuses the child on the task they just completed and allows the child to be who they are.   Encouragement with noticing builds a connection between you and your child.

Here is the language: State their name, describe exactly what you saw so state how what they did was helpful to someone other than themselves.  (end with) That was helpful.

“Jill, you picked up the blocks so no one would fall.  That was helpful.”  Or as my wife said to me last night, “Larry, you picked up the weeds I pulled from the flower bed so the yard will look nice.  That was helpful.”

Until next time, I wish you well,

Larry Slocum,

Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor

Topics: Consicious Discipline, breathe, Mr. Larry, emotions

A Message From Mr. Larry

Posted by Eric Burdick on May 3, 2013 10:42:00 AM

Hello Everyone,

“I am learning the language of Conscious Discipline and I love it!  I do say, “YOU DID IT,” but I catch myself adding, good job!  That’s hard to get out of my vocabulary! 

Five Reasons Not To Say Good Job, Alfie Kohn (Young Children 2001).

1.       Manipulating children

2.      Creating praise junkies

3.       Stealing a child’s pleasure

4.       Losing interest

5.       Reducing achievement 

Creating praise junkies:

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 coloring,” the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good or 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.

Mary Budd Rowe discovered that students who were praised lavishly by their teachers were more tentative in their responses, (Um, seven?”). They tended to:


·         Back off an idea an adult disagreed with.

·         Be less likely to persist with difficult tasks.

·         Be less likely to share their ideas with others.

In short, Good Job doesn’t reassure children.  It may even create a vicious cycle.  The more we praise, the more they seem to need it, so we praise them even more.  Sadly, 20 years later some of these children will still need someone to pat them on the head and tell them what a good job they did. 

Conscious Discipline Twist:

It’s easy to say Good Job after James and his sister just finished cleaning the bathroom. It’s far more difficult to take the time to describe their accomplishments.  When you describe the accomplishment you leave the evaluation to them.

Here is the language: State their name, describe exactly what you saw so state how what they did was helpful to someone other than them.  (end with) That was helpful. 

Until next time, I wish you well,

Larry Slocum,

Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor

Topics: Consicious Discipline, Mr. Larry, emotions

A Message from Mr. Larry

Posted by Eric Burdick on Apr 13, 2013 8:49:00 PM

Hello Everyone,


“Good Job”

“Bill does good work in science.”

“Good way to do that!”

“Good boy”

“I hope you are making good choices?”

“I first began to question the good in good when I saw it on my own daughter’s report card. Marti is doing good work in spelling. She has a good attitude. She is doing a good job in social studies. As I read the report card, I quickly realized that good didn’t help me understand much about my daughter and her work in school. All I knew is that one person evaluated her as Good. Compared to what, or to whom? What does good mean? I just didn’t know. I began to think that perhaps Good isn’t good enough anymore. Maybe its good days are over. Perhaps it would be a good idea to find a good replacement for good.”

(Chick Moorman, So What’s So Good About Good, 1980’s)


Over the next few weeks we will talk about a good replacement for good:

1. Manipulating children

2. Creating praise junkies

3. Stealing a child’s pleasure

4. Losing interest

5. Reducing achievement

Five Reasons Not To Say Good Job, Alfie Kohn (Young Children 2001). 

Conscious Discipline Twist:

Begin to notice how many times during the day you say, “Good job.” When you describe what the child, co-worker, or spouse did as good you are judging their actions and it then becomes about pleasing you rather than noticing the action. If you find yourself saying good job, add a brief description of what they did. Such as, “Good job, you spent so much time this week working on your spelling words that you didn’t miss one word on the spelling test.”

Until next time, I wish you well,

Larry Slocum,

Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor

A Message from Mr. Larry

Posted by Eric Burdick on Mar 20, 2013 10:35:00 PM

Hello Everyone,

Today’s information comes from the Conscious Discipline facebook page. This is a great resource for your questions. There are also bits of wisdom posted daily.


I was hoping to get advice on more conscious discipline for my son who turns 3 in July. He seems very aggressive. When not even provoked he will hit or bite. Today at a doctor’s appointment he pushed a little boys hands off a toy he was playing with. Avoiding a fight, if you will, I put him in his stroller and said that we were going to get called back soon and I wanted to be ready. He hits me in my face, smacks my legs, bites me and pinches me. Again he is only 2.5...please any advice would help.

Conscious Discipline®

The first step to understand is that all behavior, including misbehavior, is a form of communication. You must ask yourself, “What is my child trying to say with his actions? Is he saying, ‘I feel angry,’ or is he saying, ‘I want attention.’” If he had a facebook page what would he be posting?

The second step is to quit trying to stop children’s behavior. When you attempt to stop something, you will tend to resist what is happening and rely on fear, force, coercion or manipulation. More than likely, these are the same skills your child is using to get what he wants, and you’re trying to stop him from using! Also, when we attempt to stop a child’s behavior, we end up with side effects. The first side effect, of course, is power struggles. The second is a crushed spirit (both yours and theirs). This is the same spirit they will need to say, “no” to peers and “yes” to advanced math classes. I prefer to focus on transforming behavior so the child actually learns different ways of calling for help. To do this, we must focus on what we want the child to do instead of what we want to stop. If someone said to you, “Don’t think about a purple alligator,” what immediately pops into your mind? “What you focus on you get more of” is one of the major principles of Conscious Discipline, found both in the Conscious Discipline workbook (educators-page 89) and Difficult to Discipline (parents-page 30).

If you believe your child is hitting because he is angry and does not know how to express his feelings without hitting and hurting, we might say:

“Stop (hold onto his hand so he cannot hurt you). I will not let you hurt me or anyone else. When you feel angry say, ‘I feel angry.’” You must teach this skill over and over again. If you child refuses to be cooperative and willing to learn another way, then you must rebuild your rerlationship. The motivation to behave comes from being in relationship with one another. You know this from your own marriage…If your relationship is going well and one person asks the other, “Honey, while you’re up will you get me something from the fridge?” The answer is usually, “Yes.” However, if the relationship is severed and struggles have been the norm, the answer is more likely, “You have legs, get it yourself.” The same is true with children.

One more piece of information may be helpful: It is developmentally normal for stressed toddlers to bite and stressed preschoolers to hit.

Until next time, I wish you well.

Larry Slocum,

Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor

Topics: Consicious Discipline, breathe, Mr. Larry, emotions

Teaching Children to Have an Assertive Voice

Posted by Eric Burdick on Mar 7, 2013 3:13:00 PM

Hello Everyone,

Intrusion: Teaching children to have an ASSERTIVE VOICE

Circle the victim’s face with your finger then say,
“See her face? Her face says, ‘It’s mine. Ask please’.”

Try to have aggressor look at the face of the victim. You may have to be behind the victim.

Now help the victim say, “It’s mine. Ask please.” (If they have language skills - otherwise say it for them.)

Then help Aggressor say, “Ok, I can ask.” (If they have language skills - otherwise say it for them.) Now aggressor has something positive to do.

The last step is critical to reconnect the victim and the aggressor:

Have them reconnect by giving each other a High 5, hug, handshake, etc.

How would you handle this?

Talk it over with a friend. (hint: “His face is saying, ‘Ouch, that hurts’.”)

Older Children:

“Did you like it?” Go to the victim first and ask this. Their response will help you gauge their assertiveness.

“Go tell____, I don’t like it when you ____.” Continue with victim. Helps victim learn to state how they want others to treat them.

“Please ___________instead.” Continue with victim by asking what they want the other person to do. This statement helps the child turn the focus for the aggressor into what TO DO in order to be helpful.

“Ok, I can do that.” Aggressor has something positive to do.

The last step is critical to reconnect the victim and the aggressor:

Have them reconnect by giving each other a High 5, hug, handshake, etc.

Until Next Time, I wish you well.

Mr. Larry

Topics: Consicious Discipline, breathe, Mr. Larry

A Message From Mr. Larry:

Posted by Eric Burdick on Feb 27, 2013 2:24:00 PM

You’re OK

I observed a mother dropping off her 18 month old son at a child care center when he fell over and gently bumped his head on a table. He started to cry and the mother scooped him up and said, “It’s ok. You’ll be fine.” If her son could have talked he might have said, “Mama, I’m not ok.” 

When we tell an upset child, It’s ok when he’s really not ok there are 2 messages we are teaching:

1. We are lying to our child. The child is feeling upset but our words are saying, “You’re not upset.”

2. When they hear over and over again, “It’s ok,” they may think, “Maybe she’s right. Maybe I am ok. I sure don’t feel ok but she loves me and knows me best.” Then they start to trust you and not their inner feelings. We take their emotional guidance system from them.

Conscious Discipline Twist:

When the child is crying simply hold him and calmly breathe in his ear. After a few breaths, give words to what you think he is feeling. “It’s hard when you fall down. That must have been scary. Take a deep breath with me you can handle this.” The words will be a little different for older children but the process is the same.

Allow your child to feel his feelings. He will calm down much faster when he knows he has an ally.

Topics: Consicious Discipline, breathe, Mr. Larry, emotions

Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!"

Posted by Eric Burdick on Feb 20, 2013 6:02:00 PM


By Alfie Kohn

NOTE: An abridged version of this article was published in Parents magazine in May 2000 with the title "Hooked on Praise." For a more detailed look at the issues discussed here -- as well as a comprehensive list of citations to relevant research -- please see the books Punished by Rewards and Unconditional Parenting.

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 slightlyless 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

Topics: Consicious Discipline, Mr. Larry, emotions, Differentiation