Monday, December 9, 2013

How do you praise a child? What do you value? Physical attractiveness or character? Initiative or a slim figure? " if physical attractiveness is the most important thing about children..."

Here is an excerpt from a thought-provoking article on Brain, Child (a blog for thinking mothers)  by Kate Cohen

 how hard it is to think of things to say about a new baby.
Not that Spencer was ugly or that we, his new family, were speechless as we crowded around him in the hospital. We gazed at him—tiny, swaddled, serene, and sporting the longest eyelashes I’d ever seen. We said, “He’s beautiful.” We said, “Isn’t he cute?” We said, “What a good-looking baby.” We said, “Adorable.”
But what would we have said if he weren’t? And why, on his first day alive, could we think of nothing to exclaim over but his physical attractiveness, as if that were the most important thing about him?

That final sentence is what I notice in many praises given by adults to child.
You are such a handsome boy!
Your hair is so beautiful?
Nice dress! if physical attractiveness is the most important thing about children...

100 words and phrases to praise a child's EFFORT (not genetic inherited features)

Go beyond "Good job" and get specific...

P&C: Then how can we use praise more effectively?

Barbara Bowman: Children need to understand that praise may be given for both effort and performance. We do this by not being effusive with our praise unless one or both are present and by making clear what we are praising.

Zavitkovsky: I sometimes say that praise is fine "when praise is due." We get into the habit of praising when it isn't praise that is appropriate but encouragement. For example, we're always saying to young children: "Oh, what a beautiful picture," even when their pictures aren't necessarily beautiful. So why not really look at each picture? Maybe a child has painted a picture with many wonderful colors. Why don't we comment on that — on the reality of the picture?

P&C: So, is there a difference between praise and encouragement?

Moravcik: Yes, I think so. Encouragement is about genuinely acknowledging and appreciating what a child has done: "You did that. You climbed to the top of the climber," or "You put your jacket in your cubby." Encouragement is about the child. And praise is about what I want the child to do. Children can see through that.

Zavitkovksy: Saying "good job" or "beautiful picture" over and over sounds hollow to a child. Kids are very perceptive about who we are, what we say, and even our timing. And our praise can cause children to begin to need all the accolades they can get, and to be motivated externally, which is just what we don't want them to be.

As a teacher, I can model this behavior to parents.   I hope I am clear about the focus on effort and specifics, not on physical attractiveness.


1 - Focus on Improvement

Canned "This is the most creative art project in the class."
Credible "Your art project is even more detailed than last time."

2 - Emphasize the Effort

Canned "I'm proud you didn't get anything wrong on the spelling test."
Credible "I see you worked hard on memorizing the spelling words."
Acknowledge the process your child went through to reach her goal -- not just the end result. 

3 - Be Understated But Sincere

Canned "You're a great big brother."
Credible "That's pretty good how you helped Lila put her toys away."
"Kids this age trust understated praise more than overstated praise," says Harvey Karp, M.D.,Parents advisor and creator of the DVD and bookThe Happiest Toddler on the Block. That's because over-the-top enthusiasm can feel manipulative, whereas low-key praise seems more honest and sincere. Another tactic that works: "Gossip" praise. Suppose you're talking to your mom on the phone when your son walks in from the backyard and starts his homework. Quietly tell your mom, "Jason got right to work on his homework." Make it loud enough so he can just overhear you. "If your son comes back with an "I heard that," you know you've done it right. "It's a curious phenomenon, but people believe things they overhear more than things that are told to them," says Dr. Karp.

4 - Spotlight Specific Achievements

Canned "Terrific job selling all those Girl Scout Cookies!"
Credible "It was smart to smile and look customers in the eye when you asked them to buy the cookies."
Specific praise seems more legit to kids than ablanket statement. "Plus it helps a kid understand what she did right and what future strategies would be useful," says Dr. Corpus. Dana Kramer uses this tactic during Scrabble games with her son Andrew, 8. "I'll say things like, 'That was clever how you put the "J" down on the Triple Letter Score in the middle of two Double Word Scores,'" she notes.

5 - Take Time to React

Canned "It's so exciting that you won a ribbon at the science fair."
Credible "Hmmm. Would you like to tell me about this ribbon?"
Instead of reacting right away, allow your child to evaluate and appreciate his own work; it lays the foundation for building self-esteem. "When you rush in with praise, it can derail your child's introspection." says Brad Sachs, Ph.D., family therapist in Columbia, Maryland, and author ofThe Good Enough Child: How to Have an Imperfect Family and Be Perfectly Satisfied. What's more, Dr. Sachs says being quick to praise may create anxiety in a child because he feels that he always has to perform at a high level. Instead, offer praise after your child has a chance to explain his accomplishment.

6 - Acknowledge "You"

Canned "I'm incredibly proud of your school book report."
Credible "You must be so proud of your school book report."
While your opinion still matters to your child, she's developing her own sense of accomplishment. During this phase, turn the tables with your praise. Explains Dr. Corpus: "You'll be supporting her emerging autonomy and helping her feel responsible for her achievements."


I posted this comment on the Kate Cohen page:
This single sentence is stuck in my head:  
" if physical attractiveness is the most important thing about children..."

How does my praise of young people support their initiative and resilience.

Do I focus on appearance or on inner qualities?

I am going to think of ways to say "I respect you because...."   and "You inspire me with your tenacity."  

" if initiative and character are the most important things about children..."   A thought-provoking article.

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