The ABC program Good Morning America recently ran an article about parenting with a very provocative headline, “Why Praise Can Be Bad for Kids.” The article reports on research findings revealing that children who receive unrealistic praise, “you got an A without studying, you must be brilliant!” tend to be less successful than children who receive honest recognition of their efforts. The article also warns of the pitfalls of labeling our children.
I draw your attention to this article because it supports the Parentology view of praise. We need to be aware of the greater impact of our praise. If the praise is overly general and lays certain expectations on the child, it can actually cause more harm than good. If the child is unable to live up to these expectations, she will think that she has failed, and we will have created the belief of “I am not good enough” in her.
Alternatively, if we give specific praise about a situation or specific action, then we become mirrors to our children—helping them see a reflection of themselves in the moment. Seeing how they acted in that moment will bring awareness of their strengths, and they will know how to keep doing what they were doing, or how to work harder to improve themselves.
For example, rather than saying “you are such a great artist!” you might say “Oh, wow, look at that picture. You created depth and perspective through your use of color, and that made the picture a lot more alive!” This is great feedback that allows the child to recognize her strengths.
In another example, instead of saying “you are a great team player,” you could say “in that game, when you made sure that nobody was left out and you helped everyone to say what they needed to say. You demonstrated being a great team player…”
Try to remember a moment that you were impressed with your child. What was it specifically impressive? If you hold that mirror for your child, what he/she will be more aware of themselves? What may be the impact of that awareness?
Image available under CC License by susieq3c
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