(The following post Is There A Right Way To Praise Your Child? recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To read it in its entirety click on the link below.)
As a parent, it can be tricky to know how to motivate a child, whether it’s on a football field or for homework.
But it’s a question of balance – is there more criticism than praise in your household?
A new study that looked at over 400 families found that children didn’t mind criticism from their parents, as along as there was praise as well. In fact, the scientists identified a ratio of 2:1 of praise:criticism.
However, there are some tricks to making your praise most effective. Here are 3 top tips:
1. Being called “incredibly good” can be bad!
Inflated praise (like using words like “incredibly” or “perfect”) is often given to children with low self-esteem. We try to bolster their confidence. However, this can backfire! Children with low self-esteem feel that they constantly have to live up to such high praise and will choose easy activities to avoid failure. So in a way, we are doing a disservice to children with low self because inflated praise can actually cripple them for trying new things.
Researchers looked at over 200 children who doing some art work and either received “normal” praise (Good job!) or “inflated praise” (Perfect!) from a painter. When the children could pick their next art project, those with low self-esteem gravitated towards the easy ones because they were worried that they would not meet the high standards.
2. Praise efforts not personal qualities
“You did a great job” instead of “You are great!”
This may seem like a subtle difference – but it can have a big impact on their self-esteem. When we praise a child for their personal qualities, they connect it with their self worth and view failure as a personal flaw and may think they are unworthy. But if we praise children for their efforts, they tend to view failure as a temporary setback or a lack of effort and not a character flaw.
3. Praise the process not the person
Process praise: “You worked so hard on that”
Person praise: “You are so smart”
Person praise can lead a child to think that they don’t need to continue trying since they are already doing a great job. Process praise encourages them to keep achieving.
Researchers from the University of Chicago and Stanford University found that this difference can have long-term affects on a child. They looked at toddlers and then followed them up when they were 8 years old. The toddlers who received process praise were not only better at solving difficult tasks, but they also believed they could change their outcome through hard work