A goal of educators is to help children to become intrinsically motivated. Children's self-worth develops as an aside from working hard, surmounting frustrations, and overcoming obstacles. Honest praise provides children with the opportunity to gain a realistic understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. In order to feel strong, confident and independent, children must receive truthful valuation. Children, who have grown accustomed to continuous applause, may develop anxiety about their abilities, a fear of failure, a reluctance to try new things, and be ill-prepared to cope with future setbacks.
How can educators use praise effectively?
Think in terms of acknowledgment and encouragement rather than praise. Praise helps most when it conveys not only approval but information about the progress a child is making. For example, "You have been trying so hard to learn those new words and now you are able to read the whole story!"
Demonstrate interest and acceptance in children because they have innate value that is not contingent on their work. For example, say, "(Child's name), I'm glad you are in my class."
Use positive body language such as smiling, looking directly at the child, standing close, listening intently, and assisting when needed.
Acknowledge a child's effort or progress without judgment. Use clear, specific language. Offer descriptive praise that shows you are paying close attention. For example:
Communicate constructive observations. For example:
Acknowledge a child's specific behavior rather than commenting on his/her character. For example, say "Since you have been doing all your math homework, you have brought up your grade" rather than "You are such a good student."
Foster children's discussion and evaluation of their work by asking questions. For example:
Demonstrate interest and caring. Encourage positive character traits in students by naming them. For example: "Boys and girls, I appreciate each of you being quiet while I talked to Mrs. Jones. You were being respectful."
Relate praise to effort and to how it benefited the child as well as others. Say things like: "Since you remembered to return your homework this week, you have done better in math and I have had more time to spend helping the other students."
Promote initiative and attempting new skills. For example:
Encourage perseverance and independence by saying things such as the following:
Acknowledge independent thought and creativity. For example: "That's an interesting idea. Tell me more."
Reinforce problem-solving skills by saying things like, "As a group you decided who would be responsible for each part of the project."
Sometimes privately compliment in order to provide an opportunity for an open, honest exchange. This will also decrease student competition that can occur when children feel that you favor some more than others.
Reserve exuberant praise for outstanding effort.
Article by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Reprinted with permission from the
Kelly Bear Web site, www.kellybear.com