If you have been reading the news recently, you’ve probably seen something about how praising children too much or in the wrong way can lead to their inability to handle failure, less motivation, and even to an inflated sense of self (or worse narcissism).
If you are like me, you still find yourself saying: Good job!!
It turns out that saying “good job”, isn’t necessarily a bad way to praise, but there are even better ways to praise — a way that can build your child’s internal motivation to work hard and succeed.
A Better Way: Encourage Your Child With Gestures
In one study researchers looked at how kindergarteners were praised. Here is what they found:
- Children who were “trait” praised (e.g. you are a good drawer) were the least motivated on a task and showed less enjoyment for the task.
- Children who were praised for their effort (e.g. you worked hard on that drawing) or given ambiguous praise (e.g. Wow! or High-Five) showed higher task enjoyment and persistence, even after task errors.
In other words, ambiguous praise worked just as well as praising a child’s effort.
Children attributed a high-five or a “Wow!” to their hard work.
And not only that but the children who felt the most positive about themselves and their drawings were the ones who received the gestural praises — the thumbs up or the high five.
This makes sense. When you see your child finally persevere or accomplish something you are happy for them and you want to celebrate. Saying “High-Five” and holding up your hand with a big smile are signs of genuine pride and encouragement.
Gestural praise helps us celebrate the moment with them.
This is a little different than offering passive praise, which makes children realize we have recognized their work.
With an enthusiastic high five, we are joining them in their success instead of simply recognizing it.
When we do this — we aren’t really praising our kids, we are encouraging them. It is a subtle, but important difference. It turns out that the best way to encourage our kids isn’t what we say to them, but instead it was we do with them.
So, next time your child accomplishes something, join in the fun and give them a big high five!!!
Add this tool to your parenting toolbox and pull it out whenever you want to encourage your child.
Books On Growth Mindset, Perseverance, and Believing in Yourself
If you have followed my blog for a while, you know I love using books to teach children about emotions, behaviors, and other life lessons.
Here are some of our favorite books about having belief in yourself, perseverance, and a growth mindset.
I Can’t Do That, YET: Growth MindsetThe Girl Who Never Made MistakesThe Most Magnificent ThingThe Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple GrandinThe Book of MistakesAfter the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)Mistakes that Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to BeThe Thing Lou Couldn’t DoBeautiful Oops!Peter Reynolds Creatrilogy Box Set (Dot, Ish, Sky Color)Whistle for WillieUnstoppable Me!: 10 Ways to Soar Through LifeRosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers