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Even praise has its pitfalls

Child and sitter high-five

Across cultures, children respond better to praise for effort rather than praise for outcome.

Tell Me More

Let’s start out by saying right away that praise of any kind usually starts out with good intentions. However, praise yields greater encouragement and motivation when it is directed towards a child’s effort (ie “You are drawing very well”), rather than towards intelligence or to intrinsic ability (ie, “You are a good artist”).

Children praised for intelligence develop more focus on performance goals, rather than learning goals. When they fail, they are more likely to blame their intrinsic ability, rather than their effort. Conversely, children praised for effort are more likely to show improvement protential in their preformance than those praised for intellignece. 

So What?

When was the last time you said, “Hey, you are smart”, or “you are a fast runner”?

It’s worth taking a moment to reevaluate how this topic is handled in your home. How are achievements encouraged and rewarded? How is motivation generated? When setting goals, is performance emphasized at the expense of effort? As in most situations, decisions should reflect children’s individual personalities, but being thoughtful about praise may have a long-lasting effect.

A note about the author:

Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary, MD Ph.D. is the Founder of The Babyboost Institute for Early Learning and Development. Want more tips?  Purchase Babyboost: 50 Critical Facts on Amazon.

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