Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Praise a Child

Image courtesy of Kneff Photography

Did you know that when it comes to praising --- you can have too much of 
a good thing? 

I'm sure you've heard parents and teachers say this one too many times, 
"Great job!" Heck, I do this too! However, if not done properly, adults
could be producing "praise addict" children. A praise addict child is one
that needs constant praise. This can turn into an insecurity when pleasing
others becomes the child's main motivation. The need for praise can become
a hindrance for learning when the child avoids challenging activities because
he/she feels the outcome will not be praised.

Let me emphasize that nobody is contesting the need to praise a child. 
Instead, we're being asked to reconsider the way we praise a child. Aha!

Back then, we were told that a child should be affirmed of his/her innate 
goodness. The child is praised for a job well done --- "Great job!" This is
to emphasize that being a good person and accomplishing a task well are
two independent things.

Nowadays, parents and adults are encouraged to help a child appreciate
what he/she has accomplished. "Start by focusing on what a child is doing 
rather than how you you feel about what the child is doing." - Teach Preschool

Here are some examples:
- When a child asks, "Do you like my painting?" turn it back to the child 
and ask him/her, "What do you like about your painting? or ask him/her 
to describe what they like about their painting to other children
- When a child asks, "Do you like my tower?" get the child to discuss the 
process of making it, "How did you make that tower?"
- Describe by stating the details you observed, for example,"You decided 
to use green paint", "You started at the top of the paper"
- Focus on the process rather than the end result, for example letter grade, 
"What did you have to do to get that grade?" "How does getting that grade 
make you feel?"
- Acknowledge a child by stating what they have done, "Look how you are 
climbing up the ladder?" "I remember when you could not kick, now you 
can kick. Kick this box". - Dan Hodgins

Hmmm, I know it sounds a bit like extra work. However, it's nothing more
than just paying attention to the child and what he/she is doing. Aha! That
is something we really should be doing. 

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