Specific Praise | Day Eight

Have you ever been told by someone "Good job!" and your automatic internal response was something like this: “She doesn’t even know what I did”...”he’s just saying that to be nice”...”good job at what?”

Yep. I have. Maybe it's aggravated by my personality. But I have now read books and articles addressing this very topic.

“Good job” isn't specific enough on a regular basis. It also doesn't encourage continued growth.

However, "effort-based praise" DOES.

"You must have worked very hard to finish that."
"See how that practice paid off?"
"Just think of all the muscles you're building!"

Praise that is very specific is hard to deny.

“You were kind and thoughtful just now when your brother asked for that toy. Thank you.”
“I appreciate how you picked up your mess and put it in the garbage. How responsible of you!”
“Nice handwriting. Your teacher will be proud of your hard work.”

Now, your child knows what they did right, what to do again next time for more positive reinforcement, and feels genuinely proud of him/herself for a job well done. {Ya, I WAS responsible. Cool.}

I love how Faber and Mazlish describe specific praise in their book, “How to Talk so Kids Can Learn”.
“Telling a child ‘You’re so well-organized’ usually leads to ‘Not really.’ But the kind of praise that a child can ‘take in’ and that truly builds self-esteem comes in two parts. First, the adult describes what the child has done. {‘I see you’re all ready for school tomorrow. You finished your homework, sharpened your pencils, packed your books and even made your lunch.’} Second, the child, after hearing his accomplishment described, praises himself. {‘I know how to organize and plan ahead.’}”

What we want most is for our children to be powerful enough to praise themselves! If we can specifically describe what they did well rather than giving them simple generic praise, we give them the tools to self-affirm for the long term.

And it’s a lot harder to discount an “atta-boy” when you can’t deny the facts. You DID do a good job.

I love the research Christine Carter has been doing in the area of "growth-mindset" {effort-based rather than "you were born smart"}. Here's a helpful article with lots of growth-mindset communication prompts for parents at Education.com.

Want to learn more about "fixed-mindset" vs. "growth-mindset"? You'll love this video:

Click here to read the rest of the posts in the series, 31 Days to Happier Children.