Praising Children – Are You Doing Your Best?

Posted on Posted in DrDownload

So how powerful are words?  And trophies?  As I was cleaning out the attic recently, I came across several boxes full of soccer and little league trophies.  There were ribbons and medals from swim meets, too.

Every kid gets a trophy in sports these days.  Starting at a very early age, our children’s lives are full of honors and awards.  We tell our children all the time how well they are doing in school and with their favorite sports.  Because they are.  But there’s research to suggest that perhaps we should be thinking about how our praise actually affects our children.

Watch this short video clip and see what you think…

Mrs. Burton, my children’s preschool teacher, taught me an important lesson when she completed a screening assessment for one of the kids.  I can’t remember the exact question or the task that was placed before my child , but I remember the response …  silence.  Then more silence.  I watched from the other side of the room and eventually heard a quiet whispered response: “I don’t know.  Or I can’t.”  But without missing a beat, I also heard Mrs. Burton say with an encouraging smile, “Do your best.”

“Do your best.  I love to watch you practice.  I’m amazed at how hard you’re working on this.  I’m proud of your determination.  You’re not one to give up; I admire that about you.”

When we praise effort and not outcome, we give our children a chance to see themselves in a very different way than when we hand them a trophy for being so amazing or so smart. We allow them to learn, to make mistakes and to thrive.  As it turns out, when children see themselves as determined, as always giving it the best effort possible, then their self-image develops in ways that yield far more success than if children see themselves as accomplished.

As little league season unfolds and swim team tryouts are just around the corner … as you do another load of “we’ve-failed-at-potty-training-today” laundry… or if you have to call the car insurance company for your teenager’s dent in the car, remember this:  Praising our kids for their best effort lifts them up and ultimately means they’re eventually able to succeed in ways that matter most.  That’s what we hope for every child.

And we’d love to know what you think. Leave us a comment.

Gayle Schrier Smith, MD and your Partners In Pediatrics
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