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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Validation vs. praise

I've been having a post-blog discussion at another person's blog recently. The post was about a reliance on external validation and how damaging that can be. I agree that a dependance on external sources of validation can be harmful, but what really causes that? There's no doubt in my mind that praise and punishment cause lasting harm. It shuts of the child's ability to trust themselves and creates a dependance on external modes of control.

But is validation in and of itself harmful? I don't believe so!!
Validation is a necessary and useful communication tool. When we respond to another human with empathy and true listening, we are validating their feelings. If my spouse said "oh, you don't really feel that" or "you're just overreacting" that invalidates my feelings and it is really annoying. Not that he does this, just using a rhetorical example.

I validate my children by taking them seriously. I validate their feelings when I LISTEN deeply and don't try to tell them how to feel or how to act. I validate their dreams and ideas by assisting and supporting those, even when it's not something I feel passionate about.

I really love what Naomi Aldort says about validation in her article "Toddlers; to tame or to trust?". She also talks about validation in "22 alternatives to losing it".

True validation is void of judgement and manipulation. True validation is wrapped around trust in the other person and their ability to sort things out and find their way. Validation at the core of it's essence is healthy communication, trust and respect. It allows the person presenting an idea to be truly heard. It gives the child an ally, a trustworthy partner in their exploration and journey on this earth. Validation is something human beings need in their relationships and without it, healthy communication isn't happening.

Here's another article about validation and what a useful tool it is in communication: Emotional Validation

Praise and punishment on the other hand, are exactly what cause a need for external modes of control. The person learns that they are not trustworthy. They need to hear "good job" in order to feel good about something because they were taught that their own inner feelings weren't enough. They learn that to be loved, they must please the bigger, stronger adult. Not healthy.

That isn't validation, that's control. I believe we all need to be validated when communicating, I don't believe hollow praise or harsh judgement has anything to do with validation though.

The other part of this picture is human connections. We all need to feel like we matter to others. We all need to feel that we have a purpose on this earth and the gifts we have to share are worthy. Those connections to others that validate our work, that love who-we-are-this-very-moment, imperfections and all are so important. A reliance on another human's point of view isn't healthy, for sure. But warm connections with others that appreciate us is part of community, part of being human and so important for those of us that ARE community driven.

I realize there are personality types that are happier alone in the mountains meditating all day, or some (like my dh) that have a very low need for social connections. But there are those of us that love our social network and receive validation of our life's purpose through connecting with other likeminded spirits. I think it's healthy to nurture that. I think it's part of what makes life grand. You decide.:)


Blogger Sandra Dodd said...

You said "reliance" and "dependence" and so that sets it up to be bad from the get-go, and maybe I'm missing a part of the point or maybe I'm changing the subject, but...

Lately I am (again) involved in some SCA-based situations in which I'm kind of a coach for kind of some life-change situations, and I end up saying "Better!" or "Are you sure you want to take your finger off that piece?" (in a not-really-playing-chess, analogical way)

I'm not trying to help a person create a dependence on that kind of judgmental feedback (if that's a fair way to call it), I'm trying to help them see their own thought process well enough that they'll be able to run internal checks on their own decision making.

I think it's kind of coaching and kind of counselling. I guess one difference is that they're other adults who have entered into a "could you help me out?" kind of relationship, and they can easily leave and get help elsewhere.

So maybe it doesn't apply and maybe in part it does.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Ren said...

Yeah it does.
I think I need to write more on this topic, to sort out my own feelings about it better.
In summation, I'm trying to say that validation in and of itself does not CAUSE a dependance on external sources.
Praise can. Punishment can. Those aren't forms of validation though.

Validating someone doesn't take away their own ability to trust themselves.

Judgement of one kind or another is not validation either.
I think that's where I differ from the original blogger.....we're defining validation differently.

Here's a definition I like:
Noun 1. validation-- the act of validating; finding or testing the truth of something

Does validating a person cause any kind of reliance or dependance? I don't believe it does if it's true validation rather than some form of manipulation.

12:06 AM  

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