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The Power of Praising Kids

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[B]How to encourage your child without overpraising[/B]

“You are so smart!” “Great job!”

You’ve likely used phrases like these, particularly when praising a young child for achievements large or small. It’s a natural impulse to enthusiastically sing kids’ praises – both for their successes and as a way to bolster their spirits. But it may not be the best instinct.
You want your child to be confident in their abilities. How can “Excellent! Well done!” have a negative effect?
[URL="http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct07/vol65/num02/the-Perils-and-Promises-of-praise.aspx"]Studies[/URL] beginning with children as young as 4 years of age have found that children who hear “you’re so smart,” or “person praise,” come to see their accomplishments as fixed traits. On the other hand, those who receive “process praise” like “you worked hard!” develop an understanding that their accomplishments are achieved through effort.
It’s not so much a question of should kids be praised, but how.

[B]Praise the process[/B]

Praising intelligence focuses on end result and appearance, rather than learning and development – and can backfire when kids doesn’t know the answer or are insecure in their ability. “If I don’t know how to do something, I’m not smart,” is the unintended implication and can keep a child from exploring, participating or raising their hand in class.
Instead, praise effort, strategy, the thought behind the process – not a child’s attributes. And be specific. “I can tell you worked hard.” “It’s clear you were listening.” “You’ve learned a lot about (how plants grow/adding and subtracting).” Each recognizes achievement while fostering creativity, curiosity and the desire to learn.

[B]Too much of a good thing
[/B]It’s important to be genuine. Kids are savvy – and can sense when praise is hollow. Support and approval is important for positive self-esteem, but constant praise loses its meaning and praise as a reward becomes ultimately empty. Don’t dole out “good job” in overabundance or without thinking, but rather when it’s truly earned. A child takes greater pride in their accomplishments when praise is given thoughtfully and sincerely.
Observe and share
Some research suggests that praise should be withdrawn altogether, though really it’s more about the way you respond. If a child hears “Great job!” every time they tie their shoe or sound out a new word, they may begin to look for that rote response as a form of approval – instead of undertaking the action for its own worth.
Instead, be selective in when and how you praise. Motivate with “You tied your shoe,” or “You did it yourself!” – supportive statements that focus on the outcome of your child’s effort and why they did well. Engage in conversation and ask kids to share about what they’ve learned and experienced.

[B]The gift of confidence[/B]
The differences in “person praise” and “process praise” are subtle and may take a bit of extra thought on your part when you’re moved to cheer your child on. Genuinely encourage their effort and you’ll encourage a confident child – curious, engaged, and sure of their ability.


[URL="http://studydog.com/parents"]StudyDog[/URL] is an online reading program that positively engages and motivates young readers, inspiring them to learn independently. Check out our programs for kids PreK to Second Grade.

This guest post from StudyDog was written by blogger, copywriter and editor, Karla D. Smith

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