Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.  ~Max Lerner, The Unfinished Country, 1950

Praising Girls The topic of ABC and 123 Summer Picnic this week is encouraging others. It’s a fascinating topic to me. I did a series on this blog about 2 months ago about raising optimistic children, and one of the points of the book was that encouragement is essential while indiscriminate praise can be poisonous to young children. Interestingly, I also read that in original Montessori approach the teachers were not supposed to praise their students in any shape or form, for praise by its nature carries evaluation. It’s almost like in quantum physics – the observer changes the state of the object he/she observes. The teachers in Montessori schools were supposed to guide and help, but not to judge or evaluate.

I will be honest – I am not too good with encouragement vs. praise at home. I am much better at work. My peers often tell me that they appreciate honest feedback and not politically correct set of words designed to “raise morale”. But at home I often go overboard with praise without wanting to. I have an only child – and in my mind she is the prettiest, the smartest, the funniest little girl that ever walked on planet Earth. Of course, I am exaggerating a little bit, but you get the idea. Sometimes the praise of You are so smart! kind just jumps off my lips before I can catch myself. But I am trying to become better for the sake of my daughter. I don’t want her to grow up a praise junkie, and I don’t want her to grow up an anxious child that doesn’t want to try anything new, because she is afraid to fall off her pedestal. I hope that she will want to experiment with things that she is not good at, if she is curious about them.

As always, I am researching the subject :) I picked up the book profiled in this post in the library, and I will review it when I am done reading it. But the main idea of the book in a nutshell is that girls love praise, and should receive it, but praise needs to be wise. I found interesting examples of praise vs. encouragement here:

Praise Encouragement
Your are the best student I ever had. You are a fine student. Any teacher will appreciate and enjoy you.
You are always on time. You sure make an effort to be on time.
You have the highest score in the class on this exam.

You did very well on this exam.

I am so proud of you.

You seem to really enjoy learning

You're the best helper I ever had.

The room looks very neat since you straightened the bookshelves.

My Internet friend, the author of Raising Three Thinkers, introduced me to the works of a very interesting author Alfie Kohn. I will leave you with a great article – Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”. I will be trying hard to follow this wise advice.


Ticia said...

I try not to say good job too much, but be specific with what they're doing well. I do agree that praising too much leads to praise junkies, but since I think I tend to not give praise/encouragement enough I try to look for more opportunities

Christy said...

Very interesting. Thanks.

Nadia@FunWithMama said...

great post! i'm guilty of praise rather than encouragement but i have been trying to change my ways.. this post helps! :)

Autumn said...

Interesting article by Kohn. Might be worth reposting on the AB board.

S said...

Thanks for the link! I'm glad you found Kohn to be a good read :)

apgacruz said...

Hello! I thought this was an interesting post and link. I have a BS in Psychology and Sociology and one of the things I studied was extrinsic motivation (praise, rewards, pay, etc.) vs. intrinsic motivation (doing it because you enjoy it). Studies show that when a person feels like they are doing something for a reward then they rationalize internally that that is the only reason they are doing it. This reminds me a lot of that. That being said, I am like you and think my daughter is brilliant (surely no other baby in the world dirtys her diaper as well as mine j/k). Thanks for a good post!

Susana said...

I will be very interested to see what you think of the book when you finish it.

I need to read the article you linked as well about saying "Good job"--this is something I say often!

This is a great post and I've enjoyed reading it, thanks for sharing it, sharing this book and the links too.

Tara Rison said...

I appreciate this post. As a teacher, I was really good about this. However, as a parent, I need to be reminded.

By the way ~ I love reading Alfie Kohn. One of my homeschooling friends introduced me to his work a couple of years ago.

Thanks for finding my blog because now I have found yours. I will subscribe.

Sarah said...

I perhaps need to ponder this as I often say good job. Thank you for something fascinating to think about.

Diana said...

Thanks for some good food for thought.