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Clever boy, big boy or a duffer? A sticker with a notion

kidsparents2 yearschild3 yearsFeuilletonchildrenkidLenka Míkovcová4 years5 yearsmotivationRespect and be Respectedfamilycooperationfatherdadself-confidencedaughtershoppingdufferstickeruseless childbottle of picklesfear of losing dad's favourjoycheap phrases

“You’re so clever! You’re helping me so much!” Such is the usual praise for a child, when he does well. This time it was addressed to a five year old kid, who was helping his dad put things into the shopping cart. An ideal situation.

Until the clever boy dropped a bottle of pickles. Suddenly he became the most useless child in the world. “You duffer, look what you’ve done! Get out of the way! Such a kid like you and such a duffer!” This boy just stood there and you could see the tragedy of the broken bottle in his face and the fear of losing his dad’s favour. His joy from shopping was gone.

All this happened in mere 90 seconds. A minute and a half and the kid changed state four times according to the father. Once he was someone who was worth the father’s affection. In reality, not one of these four “stickers” attested to how his son actually is. Neither is it possible to solve such a situation in this way.

Maybe next time it would be enough to tell the boy: “Well that’s a pity. It scared me too. Let’s quickly call the shop clerk to clean it up.” This way, he could learn how to handle such a situation. The fact, that he dropped the bottle in itself didn’t help his self-confidence. So a good follow-up would be “We hold the glass of pickles from the bottom, that way it won’t slip. Could you bring a new one?”

This way, dad would avoid cheap phrases which from one perspective make the characteristics of the child. In this case, these weren’t at all helpful and may follow the child around its entire life.


STICKERS, PRAISES, REWARDS. The extract of, in my opinion, important notions from the book Respect and be respected, rewards page 155, praises page 168

  • A sticker is an unauthorized portrayal, which takes one perspective and makes it permanent,

  • A sticker is often a cheap phrase, hyperbole, where both sides know, that its unrealistic. e.g. that’s a beautifully painted picture, a muscle man, a cute princess,…

  • The sticker, for example “clever boy” = a praise = a reward. The sticker as a praise creates the expectation of authority and gets in the way, binds, creates unreasonable self-confidence in the child

  • “The one who praises talks about his satisfaction. As if saying his satisfaction is most important at that moment. ‘You made me happy that you calculated it so quickly.’ The wishes and needs of the one addressed are neglected.”

  • “Children then try to do things to satisfy the authority. Not because it is fun, healthy or important to know,… The inner motivations are destroyed by rewards.”

  • “The praise/reward becomes the target. Without considering the importance of the activity.”

  • It can create dependence on the authority who praises, resp. puts the sticker/rewards. If the external motivation of the authority is gone, we then search for a different authority and in effect become vulnerable to manipulation.

What to do instead of stickers and rewards? AKNOWLEDGEMENT and FEEDBACK. More in the feuilleton “No two wheels are alike.”

Author: Lenka Míkovcová Translation: Marek Hubbell

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