Updated: May 28
We all want to root for our kids and shower them with all the praise in the world. At times, we think EVERYTHING our kids do is the bees knees!
It's a bad habit that begins with having a baby who is tackling firsts left and right. First smile, first laugh, first crawl, walk, throw, word! Everything is camera worthy and you just want to cheer up and down because it's so darn exciting!
Not a big deal...
But then we have a habit of continuing this response as our kids grow older instead of adapting and growing with them. We continue to cheer for everything they do, until it comes to the point where a child is left wondering....what did I even do?? Is everything cheer worthy??
Recently, my son (he's 8) was showing me a drawing he had done in school that week. I thought it was really good (As most moms think everything their child does is GREAT). He paused and said, " Stop saying everything I do is good!" I was like......."What do you mean? You want me to tell it looks awful??" His response, "Well, just tell me you like it only if it's something you actually think looks good, you don't have to say you like everything I show you."
I explained to him that I did think it looked good, especially since I've watched the progress of his work over the past few years. He's always enjoyed drawing and I could see the improvement in his work lately. But I understood what he meant. He needs feedback-not fluff.
Then as I was researching a topic on self esteem, I came across information on praise. I learned that there are two types of praise. Global praise and specific praise.
Global praise is the type where everything in the world is great. "I'm so proud of you". "You're so smart." Basically, saying anything about your kid is awesome based on nothing more than them just being their regular ole' self. Not something you'd think is a negative thing, right?
The problem with global praise is, your child doesn't know what they did to to receive that attention or praise. Children enjoy being acknowledged for hard work and will try to repeat the action that gave them that praise. If they are getting praise for doing nothing, then, they may come to the conclusion that they don't need to do anything or put any effort into something to receive what they desire .
Your child did a good job, but what for?
That's where specific praise comes into this conversation.
Specific praise fills the gaps for the child to understand why you are praising them. It's recognizing the hard work and effort, or practice and time spent on a certain activity to achieve great results. "You studied for the test all week and aced that quiz, Good Job!"
You're congratulating them and pointing out exactly what they did to get success.
You are encouraging them to repeat the good behavior of putting effort in, braving a new challenge, staying focused on something they desire. And they can because they understand what they did.
Here are two examples:
"I know you didn't win, but you'll win next week."
"I know you didn't win this week, but you scored two more goals than last week because you practiced more this week."
You see how the second sentence puts the focus on the importance of practice. And by the actions of the child choosing to practice, they made 2 more goals and did better in the game. The focus isn't on winning or losing.
The first sentence isn't encouraging any tips for improvement or to practice more. And it's putting focus on winning and losing. Which isn't the goal of praising children.