There is nothing more discouraging for kids than giving them a constant stream of corrective feedback, or so-called constructive criticism, as they do their schoolwork. Psychologists have recognized that people who receive more positive messages than negative tend to remain motivated and improve their performance—this is the power of the ratio of positive to negative feedback. We believe that this principle can be applied to kids in school, especially kids who might be struggling with their schoolwork.
Love and Logic has a four-step strategy for helping kids see that success in school comes from hard work. This strategy focuses on what they get correct from working hard on their schoolwork, instead of bringing attention to their mistakes.
Step One: Catch your child doing something well.
Even though kids make mistakes when doing their schoolwork, they also get many things right. Focus on something that they get right. It can be such things as math problems, spelling, or just about anything else that they are doing.
Step Two: Describe what they did well without praising.
When you see them doing something right, simply state that you noticed what they were doing and that they did it correctly. This can sound like, “Look at problem number seven, you did that correctly.” Parents often have the urge to heap praise at this point, but resist the urge to say something like, “Super!” or “That’s great!”
This is especially important with kids who might be underachieving in school because they are so used to hearing praise like this that they rarely give it much weight.
Step Three: Ask them why they were successful.
Many kids, especially underachieving kids, will tend to respond to this question by saying things like, “I don’t know,” or “Just luck.”
Step Four: Give them a verbal menu of their possibilities.
You can help them recognize their efforts by asking, “Did you work hard at it? Did you keep trying? or “Have you been practicing?” Each of these questions represents a healthy perspective on their efforts and their achievement. This will help them recognize that they earned their success through their effort. Encourage your kids to choose the option that explains why they succeeded. Whatever they choose is not as important as they are saying it and recognizing their own efforts.
Homework time is best spent celebrating what your kids did correctly and encouraging them to identify why they were successful. You can find many more guidelines and techniques for inspiring kids to love learning in my book, From Bad Grades to a Great Life!
Thanks for reading!