Making Praise Count

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There’s a new philosophy floating out in the parent-sphere these days that debunks the idea of always praising kids for everything they do.

It is important to encourage toddlers and preschoolers, and big kids for that matter, when they are learning new skills, but a new study suggests it’s how you give the praise that matters.

The Stanford study observed toddlers and showed that “praising effort, not talent, leads to greater motivation and more positive attitudes toward challenges”

All this overpraise gives kids an inflated sense of entitlement as well as inadequate according to the study.

Sometimes I find I have a tendency to praise my 4-year-old for every little thing. Gets dressed, “Awesome dude.” Brushes teeth, “Fantastic job.” Puts shoes in closet, “Great job!” I guess I’m not totally off base in praising his efforts, but I agree with this fine line between praising to encourage more effort and meeting challenges versus just telling a child “you rock” and everything you do is fabulous. 

This definitely carries over to the classroom and sports arena. The everybody-gets-a-medal mentality doesn’t motivate one to do better, or persue other things they might be better at for that matter. Losing can be good!

So what’s the take away here? Instead of telling a child, “your art is the best’ try changing the praise to “I really like how hard you worked to make that.” Let children build their own self-worth through true accomplishment, not false over-praise.