When we see our children involved in things that are challenging for them, or beaming with pride when they accomplish something, it is natural to use praise. Praise is a great way to motivate, encourage, and reward our children. This is because praise affects how our children feel about themselves and therefore their motivations to achieve. This is especially true for babies and toddlers. Remember your body language. Smiles of encouragement, your facial expressions, etc. your child will learn what praise looks like when you pair them with words. Later in childhood, a look may be all it takes for a child to know you are proud of them.
The two most common types of praise which adults use with children focus on either effort or ability.
Effort Praise – implies that the reason for success was effort or hard work. “Johnny! You paid close attention and coloured inside the lines! I think your picture turned out great”
Ability Praise – implies that the reason for success is a trait or ability that is stable in the child. “Johnny! You are good at colouring inside the lines! I think your picture turned out great!”
These examples almost sound the same, but the small differences are important. Placing the focus on either the effort or on the abilities supports or changes the beliefs children have about themselves and learning. Their mindsets.
Ability praise tends to support a child’s self-esteem about what they see as a fixed trait they have. ‘I can draw well.’ ‘I am smart’ ‘I am strong’. We encourage you to use this sparingly.
Effort praise tends to support a child’s self-esteem about how they can meet challenges and learn from them. This belief that their effort will lead to success will impact their willingness to try new and difficult things. By strengthening your child’s ‘willingness to try’, you are strengthening their perseverance. By strengthening their perseverance, you are building their resiliency! The ripple effects are impressive! We encourage you to notice the effort your child is putting into their play and the resulting effect it has. Do this as often as you can.
Descriptive praise can come in handy as well. Praising the ‘how’ of handling conflict situations will help those responses become a part of who they are. For behaviours; praise can be more descriptive of the action. “You helped him build his tower.” after it fell “I’m proud of you. You made him feel better”
Or “You helped him build his tower.” after it fell “Now he’s happy! You look happy too.”
We invite you to watch the video below made by one of our staff members, Maren Haaben, for more on this subject.