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Praise Junkies

Having a full bodied koala suit in the house can provide all sorts of unexpected entertainment. I hired one for a book signing a few weeks ago and was aghast on unpacking it to find the face was downright creepy. The black eyes sagged, the miserable mouth drooled. Not exactly the cuddly koala look I was hoping for.

IMG_0877I managed to convince my teenage daughter to try the outfit on. Mostly to judge if it was indeed a nightmare creating monstrosity. She duely donned the suit. Disaster. Our fears were correct. She looked like an extra in a horror movie.

‘Dance around a little bit,’ I said. ‘Wave. Look friendly.’

And that’s when the hilarity began. Miss Eighteen started crumping and twerking in that koala suit in a manner that would have made Miley Cyrus proud. We wanted her to stop, but we couldn’t. We were laughing too hard. Of course we videoed her on our iphones and she posted it on Facebook, checking her likes as soon as the suit was slipped to the floor. Next was my brother’s turn. No twerking, but a hilarious dog stalking koala act, also posted on Facebook. Who would get the most likes?

So here’s the point. As I watched these two compare the responses to their videos, I realised we have become a society of praise junkies. Who had the most likes? How quickly? What funny comments did their friends say? And it’s not just Facebook. A friend recently won second prize in a writing competition, and after finding out she got a score of 98%, was most worried about why she’d lost the 2%.

Praise junkie!

Sam reading Smooch and RoseAnd then I turned to myself. Look who was talking. My first book, Smooch & Rose has been on the shelves only 2 months and I worry constantly about why it’s not in that shop, or that one. Is it an okay book? Did I do a good job? And then I read it to the intended audience and I see their shining faces, eyes wide, edging forward. Of course it’s good enough. The kids love it. And yet, that great bookshop just down the road doesn’t …

So what’s with this praise junkie thing? Are we so uncomfortable in our own skin that we must constantly look to others to tell us we’re okay?

I wonder, if, in our strive for praise, we avoid things that might make us fail. For kids, this might mean not putting your hand up in class in case the teacher doesn’t praise you. It might mean as adults we don’t speak up for our wildlife and our environment, in case people think we’re weird greenie types.

So, I’ve been wondering. Maybe we could turn this praise thing around. What if we were to praise failure? What if we tried saying ‘Well done honey, you tried something new today, and you failed. Good on you!’ We would encourage risk taking, speaking out, not conforming. We’d nurture thinking outside the box. I think it would be a great way to use our addiction to praise.

You tried today, and you failed? Three thousand likes!

About Samantha Wheeler

Australian Children's Writer.

One response »

  1. Love this Sam, let’s all give it a go , praise for trying, praise for working hard and giving it a go. Well done!!!!!


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