Thursday, April 16, 2009

'Good Girl' and 'You're so Pretty': Labeling babies

O.K. The time has come for me to gripe about the whole 'Good' baby phenomenon. I need to get this out of my system once and for all...

In case you haven't heard me say so, I don't beleive in good girls or bad girls. 'Good' is just a label we give to babies who either do or don't fit in to our adult life styles. I believe it to be manipulative and prescriptive when we tell a child they are good. It is a judgement, and one which I definitely do not welcome.

When we say "good girl" after a baby performs some task that makes us happy, it implies that they need to do what we want in order to get approval as a person. Rewarding a child (for eg when saying "good girl/boy") and punishing them (even when giving a dissaproving or dissapointed look) are two sides of the same coin. It is Authoritarian. It is basically saying to the child - 'perform to my liking and you get my love, if not I will withdraw it'. It is a form of emotional seduction. The idea of seducing children into conforming is too much of an abuse of power for me.

It has also been proven many times that rewarding children for their behaviour doesn't actually have the desired effect. It doesn't encourage socially acceptable behaviour, it actually does the opposite and focuses the child on the exercise of gaining approval.

Many studies in schools have been undertaken where the researcher has observed what happens when children are given stickers, a verbal "good job", or any other form of bribery. It has been found that the "good girl/boy" phenomenon is certainly effective when it comes to getting children to do what the teacher tells them to, however, the students in the studies didn't retain the information that they were supposed to have learnt. They were no longer developing or utilising their natural passion for learning. It no longer became about personal growth at all. The classroom, instead, becomes a tool where by our little ones are taught to blindly conform if they are to be loveable and worth while. It breeds a culture of yearning for approval instead of yearning for learning. This contributes to a plethora of challenges later in life concerning self esteem, self motivation and addiction.

I guess you can see why my skin crawls every time someone says "good girl" to Aria.


I have many bones to pick with traditional parenting styles. Maybe I'll write more when I have more time. The literature concerning the negative affects of authoritarian parenting (meaning the main stream method of parenting in western society, used to this very day) is vast and I'm not aimig to write a comprehensive account. I'm also not trying to convince anyone. I've just had enough and need to theraputically get it off my chest.

It may seem a bit soap boxy, but I figured surely I can vent a bit on this page. There... that's better...

2 comments:

indigomumma said...

well said and thank you for sharing. my views on this subject are exactly the same, as you have probably read on my blog! i enjoyed reading the info you shared here on the study you speak of.

Melissa said...

Thanks Elke :) You can read more about that study and others like it in 'Unconditional Parenting' by Alfie Kohn.