Good Swinging!

I’ve spent a lot of time on the playground in the past 6 months. Over the spring and summer I’ve logged a lot of time chasing a toddler around climbing structures, pushing her on swings, and keeping her from eating (too much) dirt. As any parent knows, the playground is a sociological experiment in action, and an excellent window into modern parenting styles.

One thing that you can’t help but notice is the incessant praise that is offered to small children. “Good job, buddy! Good climbing! Good swinging! Good running! That was such a great slide that you did, that was the best slide ever!” On and on, ad nauseum. I’ve watched these children, and as far as I can tell they swing, slide, and play in the usual way. I don’t even know, actually, how you would define above-average swinging. If the kids are enjoying themselves, then no other metrics or superlatives are really material. How much do children actually benefit from hearing continual praise over every day activities? After a while it all becomes background noise, I think. Plus, wouldn’t it be better if they could be allowed to decide for themselves what is fun, and worthwhile, and ‘good’?

Hannah is one of the most exuberant kids I know. She squeals and laughs out loud with glee. She also screams and flails and contorts when she’s upset. She runs and climbs and is rarely quiet or still. We don’t offer her a lot of praise. Why would we? She takes such genuine enjoyment out of everything that our evaluations or judgments of her performance seem inconsequential. I hope that she can continue to explore and learn and have fun under her own steam, without somebody else telling her what’s of worth and what isn’t.

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