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12.16.2010

A Quick (I promise!) Word on Praising Kids

In relation to my recent post on art, I had to say a word or two on praising kids. Because 99.9% of kids, when shown a picture by their children, react by saying something like "good job!" Praise is not bad- many articles have headlines that imply that it is (this is purely to grab your attention- none of them actually argue that praise is bad, just that certain types of praise are ineffective).

Why do we praise our children? To help them develop confidence, to encourage them to continue on an endeavor, to express our interest in their activities. We can, and should, do all of these things. But generic praise like "good job" and "I love it!" Does not accomplish this. Honest postive feedback is the most effective way to do this. When your child paints a picture and shows it to you, instead of saying "good job" or "it's beautiful" say something like "look at all the colors you used!" (note a specific aspect of what they did) or, even better, "tell me about your picture." Get them to talk about why THEY like what they've done- are they proud they've mastered a new skill or created something? Lasting confidence is not based on what others think, but is intrinsic.

Besides that, kids are smarter than this same 99.9% of adults realize- by the age of 3 or 4 they figure out that, as their parents, you are going to say "good job" to every single thing that they do. This, in turn, makes them second guess their work- if mom is always going to say "good job," then am I really doing a good job? Honest criticism that is usually positive and occasionally constructive is far more effective.

But don't take my word for it:

The Effects of Praise

What's the best way to praise a child? Be specific.

How to Praise Children

How Not to Talk to Your Children

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