Instead of Praising, Notice and Describe

Instead of Praising, Notice and Describe

Kids will soon return to their classrooms and parents will start supporting their academic endeavors as the school year unfolds. To help their kids develop a positive self-image, parents often offer praise based on evaluating academic performance as measured by grades. However, the constant use of praise can create problems.

Constant praise for everything our kids do fails to let them know what things they have done that actually qualifies as being great or exceptional. This can leave them feeling that the praise is not sincere. Also, praise usually focuses on the results rather than the effort or perseverance demonstrated.

Noticing and describing kids’ efforts, without judging them, supports their own sense of accomplishment and helps build their self-esteem. Here are some examples of common ways parents praise their kids, with alternative suggestions for noticing or describing kids’ efforts:

Praise:   “You are a great student!”
Notice/Describe:  “You got eight out of ten correct.”

Praise:   “I really like that paper!”
Notice/Describe:   “I bet you worked hard on this one.”

Praise:   “I’m so proud of the way you worked in school!”
Notice/Describe:   “Wow, five out of five! I bet that feels great!”

Kids get the most from what they accomplish for themselves. Parents can support them best by noticing what they accomplish as well as giving them with encouragement as they struggle to complete challenging tasks.

In my book, From Bad Grades to a Great Life: Unlocking the Mystery of Achievement in Your Child, you will find additional helpful techniques for instilling the love of learning in your kids and building their self-esteem.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

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