U.S. Study Shows It’s Better to Praise the Child’s Effort, Not the Child

How parents praise their children can have vastly different outcomes on how motivated the child grows up to become: study.

A toddler stacks building blocks into a tower. A parent showers him with praise.

But is any form of positive encouragement good for the child?

According to a U.S. study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, the way parents praise their toddler can affect how motivated the child becomes.

For instance, complimenting the child’s effort — dubbed process praise — with comments such as “You worked so hard” or “You’re doing a good job” sends the message that accomplishments are rooted in hard work and practice.

On the other hand, giving compliments — dubbed person praise — such as “You’re so smart” or “You’re good at that” sends the message that success comes from a fixed quality.

The effects of these two types of praise was analyzed by researchers at the University of Chicago and Stanford University who followed 53 children for five years.

Toddlers whose parents used more process praise were likely to grow up to be children who preferred challenging tasks, were better at overcoming setbacks and believed skill grows through hard work.

“You might think that all praise is good and that you have to raise kids’ self-esteem,” said the study’s lead author Elizabeth Gunderson, assistant professor of psychology at Temple University.

But it does seem that it’s really important to focus on encouraging effort,” she told theStar.

It’s important parents show kids they value effort and that a child can improve by working hard, said Gunderson, who was at the University of Chicago at the time of the study.

Past studies have had similar findings, but they’ve been set in laboratory settings over a short period. This is believed to be the first study to look at real-life interactions between toddlers and parents and its impacts over several years.

Researchers visited Chicago-area homes of 29 boys and 24 girls. They were videotaped at ages 1, 2 and 3 with their parents doing daily activities, such as playing, eating and getting dressed. (Parents, drawn from a cross-section of society, didn’t know researchers were studying how they praised their kids.)

When the children were 7 and 8, they were visited again. Kids who had grown up with more process praise were more likely to say they liked difficult tasks because they could learn from them.

While boys and girls received similar amounts of praise, boys received significantly more process praise.

“We’re not sure why that’s happening,” said Gunderson. “It’s something we’re trying to follow up on.”


By Isabel Teotonio

Source: Toronto Star - http://goo.gl/Hqmf1


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This entry was posted in Child Brain Development, Early Learning, Parenting & Education.

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1 Comment

  1. Dr. Sally says:
    February 16, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    I am the author of Parent Involvement Begins at Birth published in 1997 by Allyn & Bacon. I followed it with Constructive Parenting in 2002 also published by them. In both books I explained the “15 Pillars of Parenting.” Here are the first three:
    1. Set up for success
    2. Make expectations clear
    3. Use praise and encouragement appropriately
    In referring to #3, you are right on. Encouragement should be focused on all the little successes along the way that lead up to a formal accomplishment. Here are some examples:
    1. You finished half the puzzle.
    2. You are sitting up straight.
    3. You held the cup tightly
    Here are the three keys:
    1. When your child hears your encouragement, he or she uses self-praise like “Oh, good for me.” “Good” is the praise word.
    2. Self-praise is the best kind of all. Adult praise is very nice but when limited to that, a child can become dependent on it.
    3. While encouragement is descriptive, praise has evaluation words in it like “good, excellent, nice, etc. that can cause a dependency on trying to get those words from adults.

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