"Lavish praise for each right move...(But be careful not to tell children they are doing good if they are not; if they can't do it yet, they can't feel the joy yet.)
-Teaching Your Children Joy, p. 40
This is the instruction that came along with our hand-eye coordination activity today. The principle is simple enough, but it got me thinking about how I encourage my kids in general. The news hot topic that came to mind immediately was the argument for/against giving every participating kid a trophy at sporting events. I'm staying out of that topic until my kids are older and taking part in organized activities. What I was thinking about today was the best way to praise my kids for what they're learning. So I did a little research and reading.
What I came across was the term "descriptive praise." Basically it takes the bare "good job" or "You did great" and replaces them with more specific recognition. On my end, it seems like a lot more work. On the child's end, however, it helps to build confidence and gives them thoughts to fall back on when they're struggling.
Here are a few of the points that struck a chord with me:
When we use descriptive praise with our children we paint pictures of their accomplishments and capabilities...“You can take away ‘good boy’ by saying ‘bad boy’ the next day. But you can’t ever take away from him the time he cheered his mother with a get-well card, or the time he stuck with his work and persevered even if he was very tired. These moments, when his best was affirmed, become life-long touchstones to which a child can return in times of doubt or discouragement. In the past he did something he was proud of. He has it within him to do it again.” -ParentingSimply.com
Praise the Effort, not the outcome. -WebMD
With descriptive praise a parent describes what a child did to deserve praise, then the child describes to himself what he did. It helps them see their strengths by seeing it, hearing it, and then feeling it...For example, if your preschooler makes you a get-well card, instead of saying “It's beautiful,” you can describe it: “I love these yellow balloons and red hearts. They cheer me up. I feel better already, just looking at them.” -University of Minnesota
Eventually, in my final stage of praise withdrawal, I realized that not telling my son he was smart meant I was leaving it up to him to make his own conclusion about his intelligence. Jumping in with praise is like jumping in too soon with the answer to a homework problem—it robs him of the chance to make the deduction himself. -New York Magazine
It makes sense. My husband already seems to have a pretty good grasp on this style of praising our boys. I know with a little effort on my part this will be a great character-building parenting skill.
I'd love to hear any insights you may have!