When The Thinker (now 9.5) was at his first year of preschool, his teacher pointed out to me how using empty praise on children often has the reverse effect of what we intended. I did some further reading on this issue and concluded that I would try and eliminate praise from my parenting vocabulary and replace it with directed encouragement.
It wasn’t easy and there are still times when praise like statements slip out of my mouth, but I have found the results to be worth the hard work. I won’t get on my soapbox and list all the reasons why I think encouragement works, but I would highly recommend that if you have the time, to read this article which was published in the New York Magazine last year titled How Not To Talk To Your Kids – The inverse power of praise.
Even if your not convinced by the statistical and philosophical arguments in the article, a practical benefit from changing my focus away from praise has been that I have lost those rote responses when my children come and show me something they have created or tell me about their achievements. I can’t simply reply “That’s beautiful”, “Well Done” or “Good Girl”. I have to take notice of what they have said or are showing me and think of an appropriate comment that focuses on the process rather than the end result.
When I talk about my non praise approach, people often ask me what it is that I say to my kids, so I have collated a list of 10 ways that I can encourage my children without using praise.
- (1). You have worked incredibly hard to create this Lego car.
- (2). I love the colours that you have used.
- (3). I appreciate that you stopped playing and helped me with this task.
- (4). It seemed that it was frustrating for you to solve this puzzle, but you kept calm and you managed to work it out.
- (5). How did it feel to complete that assignment after such a lot of work?
- (6). You seemed to enjoy yourself very much during the game.
- (7). It looks like all your practising is now showing in your results.
- (8). You really used your imagination to create this story.
- (9). You did it all by yourself!
- (10). You kept working at it, trying different strategies until you received the effect you wanted.
Obviously this not the only encouraging statements that I make to my children, but it gives an example of the types of statements that can be made to them without using praise.
I would love to hear what you think about the praise vs encouragement debate. Which do you use?Tweet