6 Ways To Raise Perfect Children, Number 1: Specific Praise And Avoiding The Penal System

by Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] on February 14, 2012

in All About Me,Being Mom,Kiddos,Observations

Keep your kids out from behind bars

I never thought my teacher education would help me in raising perfect children. Those years of reading textbooks, practicums, and droning lectures has rolled over to being of good use to my parenting skills. Now I think of the (tens of) thousands of dollars I spent on graduate school as my pre-school for parenting.

All of those papers I wrote to graduate and projects I compiled to get the “real world experience” of being a teacher has rolled into being a basis for my parenting. Except with parenting, I can’t turn in my kids at the end of the school year and hope for a better set of students after Summer break.

Call it a drawback or a blessing, we don’t get a do-over with an all new set of metrics on which to measure our children’s growth handed to us with in-service trainings on how to make the most with a shitty kid or bad situation.

(If you’re not a teacher or don’t know what goes on behind the Teacher’s Lounge door, it’s a mess of bureaucratic mayhem, each school year’s benchmark requirement more ridiculous than the last. Be kind to your kids’ teachers; it really isn’t their fault your kid doesn’t have recess or time to finish eating their lunch.)

What’s the easiest and one of the most effective way I show my kid’s how much they’re loved and respected and thus being perfect children?

Specific Praise

This tool in the teacher’s arsenal is the one I thought was the most ridiculous. At the time, I was not yet a parent nor had I stepped foot into an elementary classroom in 15 years. Much like a 12-year-old, I thought I was smarter than the adults.

It didn’t feel natural to tell students, or anyone else for that matter, “Good work looking up that word so quickly,” or “You’re a superstar speller!” It seemed to take too much effort to be specific with what I was complimenting. But hearing, “Good job!” or “I love you!” isn’t enough for kids, or for adults for that matter.

I know you’re asking, “Angie, what the hell are you talking about? I need specific examples!”

You’re with your kids standing in line at Toys R Us for way longer than should be allowed by law. Your kids are being well-behaved, they’re not annoying other people in line, and they’re not begging incessantly for the tub of factory-made cotton candy taunting them.

You think, WOW, my kids are actually behaving, so you tell them, “Good job!”

What exactly are you complimenting? Are you saying, “Good job!” to your kid for standing still for more than 4 seconds or “Good job!” for not actually killing her brother with her bare hands or “Good job!” for not being a pissant and begging for everything in sight?

Senario, continued:
You see your kids poking one another in the eyeballs.

You think, WOW, my kids are being little jerks, so you tell them, “Stop that!”

Tell them specifically what you’re complimenting or correcting. Otherwise, they won’t know exactly what you’re telling them you appreciate.

They could have just been stuffing their pockets with candy when you weren’t looking, and hearing “Good job!” from you could mean you complimented their ability to shoplift.

They could have just been digging out sleep boogers from one another’s eyes. Now you’ve just told your kid not to take care of his sister, so when she thinks of a career as a stripper, your son won’t think to take care of his sister, so she ends up as an escort, stuck in a life of crime just like in the movies.

Good job on raising your kids to be thieves, MOM. Your lack of specificity has just set up your kids for a future in the penal system, and not the good kind.

The penal system is a bad, bad place for your kids to end up. Without specific praise or specific corrections, your kids are doomed to be featured on Lockup: Raw.

You’ll pretty much have to thank me at your kids’ college graduations.

Here’s a simple photographic example of my kids doing wrong (and right) as seen on Shit My Kids Ruined.

"Good job picking matching sweaters! Next time, let Mama feed the dogs."

Stay tuned for more in my series on how to raise perfect children.

1. Specific Praise

2. “You is important.”

3. Positive Correction

4. Let Them Eavesdrop

5. Believe Them (to a point)

6. Failure

(Subject to change if/when I think of anything better or if I get suggestions. Also, this series subject to end at any point if I forget or get bored with my lessons.)

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Charissa February 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Your article is spot on except for one teeny thing. “Penal” refers to correctional facilities. “Penile” usually refers to male anatomy.

I enjoy the variety of your site and will be coming back . 🙂


2 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] February 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm


…and totally embarrassed.


3 Lance February 15, 2012 at 9:09 am

How my parents raised me and how I deal with my kids is very different. Because I said so and a smack on the ass don’t work. My 3 daughters want to know why, where, how, and what for they’re being to talked to about and punished.

My wife gets on to me when I just yell and I;’m not specific in why I;m angry or disappointed. The teenager is especially sensitive to this.

godo post
An Awesome post on Lance´s blog … Hotel Illness


4 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] February 15, 2012 at 10:25 am

When they know and understand why they’re being reprimanded or praised, they internalize it easier.


5 Tara R. February 15, 2012 at 9:21 am

When I taught martial arts, especially with the kids, we were told as instructors to give realistic praise as well as positive correction. If you tell kids they are “awesome” for doing the minimum, there is no where better to go.

I have answered my kids’ endless questions of “why” with “because in this house I. AM. GOD!”
An Awesome post on Tara R.´s blog … Lost in the tunnels


6 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] February 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

Oh, there are times when I give the “BECAUSE I SAID SO” excuse, but they get really confused. And yeah, the realistic praise & correction is important.


7 Cindy G February 15, 2012 at 9:41 am

Good post and great reminder. I like your list so make sure you write it up 🙂 especially positive correction. I let my kids eavesdrop on me telling their dad what they did well that day. They like hearing about themselves in a good light when they think I don’t know they are there (wow, hard sentence to read)


8 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] February 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

YES, exactly. If they know that you’re proud of them even when they think you don’t know they’re listening, they’ll feel good about hearing a “secret” about them.


9 Courtney @ Illuminate February 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Gotta tell you I just sat here for a good 10 minutes reading the initial post from my google reader. I was thinking, “Does she really mean penile? Have I lost my mind or is she really talking about male anatomy? Maybe there is an inside joke here that I’ve missed.”

Sorry it was at your expense, but thank you, thank you, thank you for a good laugh. It made my day 🙂

And, you’ve gotten me thinking about being more specific about my praise and corrections for my daughter.

Awesome post!


10 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] February 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Even my mom was like, “Whaaaa? I thought you meant it to be a joke.”

That’s what I get…

And thanks!


11 Erin@MommyontheSpot February 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Great series! As a former teacher, I totally agree that it was the best training before becoming a parent. I could write a few posts on about entitlement, specifically how helicopter parents are giving the sense of entitlement to their children. Just sayin’.

ps- LOVE that photo!!


12 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] February 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm

OH JEESUS. I have to stop my own self from being a helicopter parent sometimes. It’s such a fine line between keeping them safe and smothering.


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