Counselor’s Corner Genevieve Lundberg October 2007 Does Praising Our Children Work? What Can we Do? As parents, we want our children to have a Praise can be extremely positive and strong sense of self-esteem and inner belief effective, but it needs to be the right that they are smart and talented. We want to kind of praise. Children can see through ensure they have the confidence to pursue all praise that is empty or not sincere. For their dreams and the drive to persevere even example, if a child is struggling with when things get hard. The only way most of something, parents tend to shower them us know how to do this is to praise our with praise, trying to help them feel children up and down, telling them how better. This rarely gives the child smart and wonderful they are. After all, if enough courage to complete the task at we don’t praise them, who will? We hand. The child still knows that he/she definitely don’t want to risk having our is struggling. Sometimes the child’s children think that they are stupid and not behavior will escalate to prove to his/her capable of doing anything well. But, what if parent how difficult the task really is for our efforts to build confidence are actually him/her. backfiring and creating children who do not Praise needs to be based on something have the self-belief to try challenging real – a real talent, skill, or quality. The endeavors, and they lack the skills to deal best kind of praise is specific. Think with frustration? about what your child is good at or what For the past ten years, a psychologist, makes him/her special. Now try to Carol Dweck has been studying the effects break those qualities down into tiny of praise on students. In particular, she has parts that you can specifically praise been studying the effect of praising students him/her for. For example, instead of for their intelligence and being smart versus saying, “You are so smart,” try saying, praising children for their effort and “I liked how you used some really perseverance. Dweck has found that descriptive words.” If your child plays students who are praised for being smart soccer, instead of saying, “You’re so tended to avoid challenges for fear of not good at soccer,” try to think of the small looking smart anymore. They discounted specific things he/she does well. the value of effort. The thought is that if Perhaps it is being a team player and you are smart, things should come easily. passing the ball. If your children are When things become difficult, it then struggling with something, empathize becomes an indication that they are no and acknowledge that it is difficult, longer smart. In contrast, the students that frustrating, and tempting to give up. were praised for their effort were much more Praise them for the specific things that willing to try difficult tasks and persevered they are good at, encourage them to despite not achieving success right away. persevere, support them through the When children are praised for their effort, process, and finally praise them for they perceive themselves as being in control fighting through the frustration and not of their success. Dweck also found a way to giving up. improve the children’s test scores by simply To view the complete article regarding Dweck’s research and the inverse power of praise go to teaching the children that the brain is like a www.nymag.com/news/features/27840. muscle - the more you use it, the smarter you get.
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