Friday, May 28, 2010

The Power of Praise

I went to a class about parenting "gifted" children a few months ago.  It was a very interesting and informative class.  I wish I would have had a notepad to write down everything I hoped to remember!  The one thing that caught me off guard and seemed to contradict what I had previously been taught about parenting was the discussion on praise.  When I was a teenager, teachers would occasionally praise students work.  Parents rarely did, it was like thanking someone for something they were supposed to do anyway - unnecessary.  By the time I had kids, the parenting gurus talked about catching your kids (or your husband) doing something good so you could praise them for it.

In this parenting gifted children class, the coordinator of the district's gifted program shared the results of a new study.  Some kids playing on a soccer team were told they were good players; they were satisfied and often didn't want to continue playing soccer the next season.  Other players  were praised for specific things, like their hustle or a good block.  Those kids were more likely to continue playing soccer.  The same held true with academics.  When students were told they were smart after a test, and then turned down the chance to take another similar test.  Other students were given specific praise on things like their effort; they were more likely to volunteer to take another similar test.  The study showed that children are more motivated when their efforts are praised, instead of when the results are praised.  They often feel that they've met the goal when the results are praised.  Conversely, they are motivated to keep improving when they are praised for the process.

Vague praise often feels insincere and patronizing. Children and adults are motivated when we feel truly appreciated and noticed.  I try to keep that in mind when praising and encouraging my children.  I love them because I love them, but I appreciate them for specific reasons; a compliment from a teacher for good participation, finishing a book, or being thoughtful.  Try your own experiment for a week and let me know your results!


Vickie said...

Wow, thanks for sharing! I think it makes sense. One teacher I worked with said we shouldn't praise the children at all because they would come to expect it and might be disappointed later in life when they weren't praised for doing things. She also said that it would make others feel bad if they weren't praised for the same thing. I didn't like that philosophy. This one you posted makes a lot more sense to me!

Mary said...

One of my sons struggles with grades. As his sister gets straight A's he studied hours for his c. He just graduated yesterday from Jr high. We all were so proud of him not because of awards, high grades, or any outstanding achievements , but because he continues to work hard and never gives up. I so agree with praising the effort. We need to remember God doesn't expect us to be perfect either But he wants us to strive ( effort) to be perfect.

Raejean said...

Vicki - it really hit me too and putting it into my one words helped it make even more sense.

I appreciate your comment Mary. It does seem in line with how our Heavenly Father teaches his children!


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