Doling out the Cookies

Reward and acknowledgment, part 2

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Another in a series of articles from my
upcoming book, TaskMaster™
Virtue is not its own reward – Part I
LinkList to articles HERE & below


Before we leave the discussion about acknowledgment, lets talk about how it works.

An acknowledgment, properly executed, carries one message and one message only:  GOOD JOB!

Think about the way we talk to each other.  Think about the subtext of the messages we send when we praise.  Think about the words we use.

•  Not bad!
•  Decent!
•  Almost perfect!
•  Great!  Now try it again with your back straight.

Excuse me?  I don’t know about your inner three-year-old, but mine hears an underlying message that takes away as much as it gives.

What tries to pass for acknowledgment above leaves me with the not-so-subtle feeling that, no matter how hard I try or how much I do, I will never be “perfect enough.”

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Now think about your inner dialogue; I’ll bet it’s even worse!

• Well, it was the best I could do with the time I had.
• It’s not spotless, but at least it’s not embarrassing.
• Just think about the job I could have done if I had started earlier.
Why do I keep waiting until the last minute?
• Don’t stop now.  You don’t have time for a break. There is far too much left to do.

Whew!  Those words aren’t particularly empowering, are they?  They might as well be saying,
“Pretty good for the miserable, insufficient human being that I am — I have to keep my shoulder to the wheel to even begin to approach the underside of adequate.”

NOW think about the words we use in reply to the attempt of another to acknowledge us for something we do well or something they like about us.

How do we respond to compliments on our cooking?

•  Oh, it’s just something I threw together.
•  It needs something.  More garlic maybe?
•  I wish I hadn’t burned the rolls.

What about compliments on our appearance?

•  This old thing?
•  I made it myself.  I couldn’t afford the designer original.
•  My wife picked it out.

And finally, think about the inner comments that often come up in response to the modeling of someone who really knows how to self-acknowledge.

•  Kinda’ stuck on herself, isn’t she?
•  How can he think he looks good when he still has that pot gut?
•  Well, they would have found it a lot sooner if they’d just stopped to ask for directions!

Hmmmmmmm . . .

These comments may be said with a chuckle, yet the come-from brushes aside the attempt to acknowledge, overshadowing the idea that frequent acknowledgment is not only appropriate, but possibly essential to our sense of well being.

Besides the feeling that there is something wrong with endorsement, our knee-jerk responses often point to a paradigm leading us to embrace the idea that unless we are perfect, we are worthless, undeserving of acknowledgement:  black and white stinkin’ thinkin‘.

Sad, isn’t it?

Let’s rethink the concept

The underlying concept that keeps black and white thinking in place is the idea that things of value are pure examples of absolute consistency.  That’s insane!

“Black” and “white” do not exist in action.  Even machines fail to function consistently all the time.  Go through the yellow pages and you will find pages of people make their living fixing machines that are not functioning correctly.

  • We expect to engage in the process of upkeep and repair with things.
  • So, WHY do we expect humans to live up to some expectation that there will be consistency of action? (especially sans systems for maintenance.)

If it were possible to always or never do something, I’m sure our lives would run quite smoothly! They would also, however, be universally boring.  There would be no surprises, no chance meetings while lingering in coffee shops instead of rushing back to work, no insights from browsing bookstores aimlessly despite a list of to-dos that clearly illuminates a crying need to do otherwise – nothing to change the steady rhythm of the predictability of the sameness of life: endless grazing on mashed potatoes!

The answer to the question of why we strive for a perfection that will remain forever out of reach is the subject of an entire book in the ADD Lens Series!  For the TaskMaster™ Series, it will be enough to notice the times we indulge in the habit — to prepare ourselves to jettison the very idea of consistency of action.  We need to begin to teach ourselves to notice patterns of thought that leave us judging ourselves deficient whenever we fail to adhere to impossible expectations.  We need to let them GO.

We are going to replace black and white with gray.  And we are going to name the game in a way that gives us a great number of opportunities for reward and acknowledgment.

Balanced Meals and balanced kiddos

**attribution below

Lets go back to the idea of motivation, bribery, your inner three-year-old and that cookie.

Let’s step into the shoes of a kid for a moment.

Have you ever watched a crying child transform before your eyes at the appearance of a cookie – or an ice cream cone, or a cupcake or candy bar?

Does the same thing happen if you try this trick with liver?  Spinach?  Salad?

If you answered yes to those questions, you haven’t spent much time around kids.

Bribery works.  You betcha’.   You might as well be saying, “Stop crying and I will give you this cookie,” every time you offer a bribe to garner cooperation when your inner three-year-old is fed up with bites of anything that smacks of what you have been doing for too long already.

End that sentence with any word that doesn’t scream
TREAT to that kid and the crying will intensify.

“If you take just three bites, then we can have dessert!”
is a lot more likely to elicit cooperation from a fussy eater than its opposite:
“If you don’t take at least three bites of that spinach you can’t have dessert tonight!”

The importance of balanced menus
and balanced days

If, however, the only good thing in that kid’s life is a measly cookie at the end of long days of cooperation, eventually s/he will stop being willing to cooperate with you AT ALL anymore.

If you insist upon three bites of liver followed by three bites of spinach, followed by three bites of broccoli or whatever else is odious to that child — with nothing to look forward to but another three bites s/he won’t like any better — there aren’t enough cookies in the universe to make it worth exposing their taste buds to unrelenting awfulness first!!

You know what they call that phenomenon in the adult world, don’t you?  


Cookie Management


The next article will explore ways to apply the Cookie concept to encourage YOUR inner three-year-old to work with you – so don’t miss it.

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, and a lot more to come.

**Thanks to Christart for the Broccoli graphic (click for site)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

13 Responses to Doling out the Cookies

  1. Pingback: Habit Formation BASICS | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: HELP needed and offered #Flash4Storms | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Bernadette says:

    Positive reinforcement works every time. As a mother of three ADHD sons, I took to heart the advise catch them doing the right thing and compliment for reinforcement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It makes a HUGE difference, doesn’t it? Good for you!

      My puppy is a Shih Tzu – a breed that has an undeserved reputation for being stubborn. They’ll practically do calculus for praise and love – they don’t respond at all to “tough love,” and many will completely stop trying to please you if they get enough “bad dog” correction.

      Kind of like ADD kids.


  4. My grandsons are praised constantly by their parents, but my other son and his wife do not praise their daughters as much. My grandsons absolutely ADORE their parents – it’s wonderful to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great news about the boys, and I’m sure you compensate with the girls.

      Educational studies have shown that the “focus on the boys” dynamic is (still) common in most classrooms as well. As a female, I’m not sure what’s up with that and I’d REALLY like to see it changed.

      I got little acknowledgment myself as a kid – simply “expected” to do well. It was disheartening to me to feel like no matter how much I did I seldom got a “cookie” for it, especially from my father. It made me feel quite taken for granted – unimportant except for my role as resident oldest and “support personnel.”

      Your grandsons reaction to their parent’s praise is only one good reason why it’s important to include the girls in those “cookie breaks.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Usually it’s the boys that are misbehaving in the classroom, and they tend to demand more attention. Girls are eager to please.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Which is why ADD in girls is often missed.

          Even their hyperactivity, when part of their profile, tends to look different from that of the boys – more fine motor vs. gross motor (foot jiggling, nail biting vs. running around) or “compliant” rule breaking (like passing notes, etc.)

          We socialize our girls to please and our boys to compete, which adds to the problem. Good comment, Stevie.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Or is it natural for boys to compete and girls to be compliant and eager to please?

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’m sure there are tendencies in certain directions as the result of hormones – and many would turn out that “natural” way no matter how they were socialized.

              I wonder, however, if we were all socialized differently (which is to say, more similarly), how remarkably, universally “natural” certain traits would turn out to be after all.

              If you look at the history of the suffragettes in America and England, those weren’t exactly compliant women — they were fairly willing to displease many to fight for the vote. In other countries, even today, woman take huge risks in their cultures to be allowed to read and be educated. Look at young men and women in Israel who all fight in the army – and men in Scandinavian countries who “parent” very differently from the men in America, for example.

              It certainly would be an interesting experiment.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I suppose most men and women from any country would want to fight injustice if it affects their way of life.

              Liked by 1 person

            • When things are unbalanced or unacceptable *enough* we do step up. The smaller “unbalances” tend to be accepted, fostered and lived with, culturally – at least by those with temperaments who are ABLE to do so.

              Those who can’t tend to attract censure or pressure to varying degrees from subtle to overt – or must fight for opportunities in certain fields (like science and math for women and girls, for example).

              That is what I’d like to see change – our expectations of one another and the areas we are encouraged to pursue and emotions we are encouraged to express, simply because we were born male or female.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Virtue is not its own reward | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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