Curriculum Center According to some psychologists and researchers, praising everything children do does not build self-esteem -- eventually the praise becomes meaningless. Instead of continually praising students, teachers and parents should substitute descriptive comments or cite specific improvements in work.
Most parents and educators agree that praise is critical to developing children's self-esteem -- so the more praise the better. Right?
Not necessarily, although praise is obviously good for children, if adults applaud everything children do, the praise can eventually lose its effect or create "approval junkies" -- youngsters who constantly seek praise, some child professionals say.
Rather than responding to all of children's work with phrases such as "Good job" or "Nice work," teachers should consider comments that describe the content and encourage children to continue to improve, some researchers advise.
The common notion is that children with high self-esteem will be happier and perform better in school and later in life. Research does not support that idea, "Self-esteem does not make them happier, achieve more, or become more capable and competent". "It does help kids deal with stressful situations and builds in some resilience."
Identifying a child's strengths and developing those strengths helps build confidence more than constant praise does. Praise also loses its effect if the praise is the same for all the students. For example, if all the students in a class are told their paintings are great and students know some are better than others, the praise will lose its significance.
Adults have gotten into the habit of not telling children when they are wrong, and that will not help them cope with adversity when they are adults. "That's not how the world is."
NEED FOR BALANCE Praise Pointers!
Looking for something to say to your students other than "good job"? The following are some suggestions from psychologists, researchers, and other child professionals on improving the way adults praise students.
* Comment on the content of the student's work or on a noticeable improvement. For example, if a student asks for feedback on a drawing or painting, the teacher can say "Why did you put the wagon there?" or "You are drawing faces better," .
* "If a student cannot really draw well, but it is a good effort for him or her, say that," "When you are dealing with something that can be judged, or when standards can be applied, apply them."
* Try to make the praise specific, and focus on the effort that went into the work. Saying "I can see a lot of effort and thought went into that paragraph" rather than "That's a good paragraph" is more meaningful to a child.
"Blanket, automatic, or empty praise is useless, children see through it. They can learn more from descriptive comments. The praise has to be grounded in something real."
Teachers can help build children's self-esteem by creating classroom atmospheres in which children feel comfortable and secure and classmates support one another, "That is more important than words flowing from a teacher."
RISK OF CREATING 'APPROVAL JUNKIES'
It is essential to emphasize that an atmosphere in which children feel secure is critical to fostering self-esteem.
Specialists do not believe you can give anyone self-esteem, but you can create an environment where it can grow,"
Constant praise, though, does not build self-esteem and can create "approval junkies" -- kids who seek praise for everything they do. "Their self-worth is based on what others say, and that is not a healthy self-esteem. They can't do things if they are not praised."
MORE CAUTIOUS Not everyone, though, agrees that less praise can be more beneficial.
There is a possibility that too much praise could make children jaded and less prepared for the rigors of adult life and that, in some cases, parents could be more selective with praise.
"If a child has been working hard on vocabulary and comes home with an A, it is appropriate to praise [the child] and point out the connection to hard work," "But if [the child] normally does well in vocabulary, there is no need to be effusive."
Adapted from Ellen R. Delisio
Copyright © 2000 Education World
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