Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Empty praise hurts kids

17

January

"Good job!" and "My, you are so smart," fall from the mouths of parents easily. But be careful, brain researchers say. That kind of empty praise can have the opposite effect.

What they encourge is a technique called growth mindset praise. Next time your kids are doing good in school, say “I’m proud of you, you must have worked really hard for this.” With that, your kid will not take the next failure personally, and will think that they should work harder next time.

All the trophies and "Atta boy" high fives are aimed at making our kids better—more motivated, more confident, more inclined to tackle challenges. Instead, they might be inclined to avoid anything that's tough.

Even schools are starting to turn off the self-esteem boosters and focus on rigor and fine-tuned praise such as noting when a child shows effort or improvement. Research has found that easy, unearned praise does not help students but instead interferes with learning because they become praise junkies and won't take risks if it means they will be exposed as imperfect.

What's the right way to praise a kid?

• Be sincere and specific with your praise 

• Praise kids only for traits they have the power to change 

• Use descriptive praise that conveys realistic, attainable standards

• Be careful about praising kids for achievements that come easily 

• Be careful about praising kids for doing what they already love to do 

• Encourage kids to focus on mastering skills—not on comparing themselves to others

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 6:45am]

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