How to praise your child: why simply saying 'well done' is not helpful

Bill Lucas | First published: 15 October 2016, 20:03 IST
Parentage

How do you react when you hear expressions like "well done", "another A grade", "aren't you clever" and "great work"?

Maybe you use them yourself with your children in the belief that it will encourage them to work hard and do well.

It turns out that praise like this is not helpful and can actually damage children. Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck has shown that generalised praise of this kind can all too easily create learners who have what she calls a "fixed mindset".

These children are afraid to make mistakes, unlikely to put in the necessary effort and, most importantly, unwilling to really practise because they have a fixed view of how smart they are.

When you label a child as "clever" you are not helping them. For smart kids can all too easily think that effort is something that only those who are less clever have to put in to achieve results.

Instead we need to be specific with our praise and focus on how the outcome was achieved:

I really noticed how much effort you put into selecting interesting vocabulary in your opening paragraph. Well done!

Or we might want more explicitly to connect the effort and the result in the child's mind by asking:

Tell me how you organised your practice so that you managed to play that piece so beautifully.

How to give effective feedback

 
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