Is praise always good?
A new study presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference showed regular parental praise, specifically five times a day, improves a child's well being. The study, based on England’s De Montfort University’s Five Praises campaign, surveyed 38 parents of 2- to 4-year-olds, Time reports. The Five Praises campaign encourages parents to praise “the child’s effort or achievement” during activities such as brushing teeth, learning to ride a bicycle or caring for a pet.
The word "effort" matters.
Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor who has spent decades studying motivation, believes in the power of praise, but has said the kind of praise matters.
"The wrong kind of praise creates self-defeating behavior," she has said in The Perils and Promises of Praise. "The right kind motivates students to learn."
Jonice Webb, a Massachusetts psychologist specializing in childhood emotional neglect, said “positive feedback" is a better way to think about effective praise.
For example, don’t tell Harper she’s amazing, tell her you loved how focused she was putting together her science project. If she lost interest along the way, maybe ask, “were you getting tired?”
Webb said millennial parents, who “helicopter” more than the generation before them, could struggle with this. As parents interact with children, it’s important they offer honest feedback, she said. That means if Chris is a horrible violinist, don’t tell him he’s a great one. White lies could lead to problems down the road.
“That sets the child up to need praise and seek it,” Webb said. “It sets up a narcissistic dynamic – a false sense of self-esteem that’s based on things that aren’t real. It’s very damaging.”
Kenneth Barish, clinical associate professor of psychology at Cornell University, disagrees with the feedback philosophy, saying praise is as necessary as oxygen and young children should be praised all the time. But, he said he understands other philosophies and does advise praising effort above all else.
In other words, children are amazing. Tell them why.
As children grow older, the frequency and type of praise can also be adjusted. It's simply one ingredient in the recipe of parenting. So, Barish said don't be consumed with praise practices.
"We actually focus too much on the importance of praise," Barish said. "Raising kids who want to be good kids, it’s not all about praise, it’s about the things we do with them."
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