CAN YOU PRAISE CHILDREN TOO
In the rush to give children a healthy dose of self-esteem, some adults go
too far to praise children. And that can backfire. It doesn't take kids
long to realize that all the praise may not be justified. Maybe you fail
gush over a painting the way Mom and Dad have always done. Or a playmate
tells them their clay bowl is yucky. It's a rude awakening!
A child who is praised too much may fall into the great-expectations trap.
These kids feel the only way they can be accepted and loved is to keep
performing at higher levels. Too much praise can also set up a
fear-of-failure scenario. Kids are so dependent on the approval of others,
they may be afraid to take risks. Scared that they won't be able to do a
task perfectly, they don't do it at all.
This is not to say that adults should act like drill sergeants. It's fine
to tell a toddler everything he does is wonderful. And it's also fine to
burst out in spontaneous delight over something a child does. But by the
time kids are in preschool, caregivers and parents should think about when
and how they praise.
DON'T PRAISE INDISCRIMINATELY. Children need and deserve realistic
feedback about their accomplishments to understand their strengths and
weaknesses. If you gush over everything, they will never recognize that
some areas really do need improvement. Instead of treating every painting
as a masterpiece, talk about the facts: Look at that deep-blue sky! What a
lot of colors you used today! I can't wait to hang up this painting. Think
of praise as a form of feedback. The more specific you are, the more
important information you impart to the child.
FOCUS ON THE CHILD'S SPECIAL TALENT. Every child has some area of
competence, one that can serve as a source of pride and accomplishment.
Encourage that special talent and the child's pride in his achievement
transfer to other work.
LOOK AT THE CHILD'S EFFORTS, NOT THE RESULTS. Too often, adults
the results and forget about the effort. Look back two or three months on
the child's progress and concentrate your praise on how much a child has
NEVER COMPARE A CHILD WITH SIBLINGS OR FRIENDS. Many times adults
one child to another. Encourage children to participate and do well
they enjoy something, not because they want to beat out someone else or
prove they're smarter than someone else.
TEACH CHILDREN THAT MAKING MISTAKES IS A NATURAL PART OF THE LEARNING
PROCESS. While you will never be able to take away all the
disappointment a child will face, you can make sure he doesn't feel
defeated by it. For instance, if you see a child is upset because a
didn't come out the way he wanted, you can encourage him to start over or
change something in the project.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
(1993). Can you praise children too much? In M. Lopes (Ed.) CareGiver
News (August, p. 1). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts