In their book Nurture Shock, authors Bronson and Merryman site a study of fifth graders which revealed that kids who were praised for “being smart” did not perform as well as those who were encouraged for their effort. The study found that “emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” but when kids were praised for just being smart, they tended to discount the importance of their own effort.
Simply telling children a blanket statement like, “You’re great,” may bolster their ego for a moment, but it won’t necessarily help them in the long run. Yet, parents shouldn’t be too quick to swing the pendulum in the other direction either. Research also shows that when encouragement is given in the right way, it can be a powerfully motivating factor in our children’s lives. How do parents know how to encourage their kids without overindulging? Here are a few tried and true principles to follow:
- Be sincere and specific when praising your kids.
- Commend your kids for their effort and hard work.
- Guard against comparing your kids to others, and instead encourage personal bests.
- Notice and highlight positive actions which your kids choose to exhibit toward others such as kindness, patience, sharing and compassion.
- Encourage learning and growth through their challenges and mistakes.
- Teach your kids the importance of encouraging and cheering for others.
Instead of simply telling your kids that they are awesome, use precise words to highlight their hard work, wise choices and honest achievements. When we offer sincere and specific words of affirmation, we not only give the gift of encouragement to our child, but we tie it with a bow and attach a note that says, this is meant only for you. Let us be givers of good gifts through our words and our presence.
For more keys to being a positive parent check out:
The Power of a Positive Mom – www.positivewomanconnection.com/books
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book goes to ENGAGE Parenting Initiative, encouraging moms in at-risk communities. www.EngageParenting.com