I’ve finished the book now, and I loved it all! In case you didn’t read “Brain Rules for Baby Part 1”, I’m referring to a book by the marvelous John Medina. You can find it on amazon here. I would definitely recommend it for any nanny or parent to read. So much great information, along with studies to back it all up. Here’s another topic from the book that I think is important.
How do you praise children? What’s the best way to praise a child?
Praise is so important- you probably already know that. But Mr. John Medina talks in his book about how important it is to praise in a certain way. Many people think that telling a child that he’s really smart will convince him that he is and give him the self esteem to tackle difficult problems. But it’s not true. Let’s look at an example.
When little Brian, aged 5, showed a proficiency for spelling words, he would often fly through spelling homework. His mom would praise him again and again, “Brian, you are so smart! I’m so proud of you!” Brian would beam with pride because it was so easy for him to do so well. Fast forward a few years, and Brian was struggling with more difficult words and the more complicated rules of spelling in the English language. In his mind, he believed that he must not be smart anymore. Or maybe he was never smart in the first place. His parents wouldn’t be as proud of him now because he couldn’t fly through spelling tests and reading tests like he used to. So he gave up. And his grades plummeted along with his self esteem.
Brian didn’t know what to do when things get hard, and he thought that “being smart” meant that you knew things without much effort.
So what could his parents have said instead? They should have praised his effort. Examples of praising his effort would be things like, “Brian, you worked so hard to finish your homework!” or “That homework wasn’t easy, but you kept at it and did a great job!” When a child has a hard time, remind them that sometimes things are hard, but if you keep trying, you’ll eventually get through it. You want a child to know that it’s ok to make mistakes, and that those mistakes are part of the learning process. Challenges require more effort, not ability.
Be sure to always think about the messages you’re sending when you praise your child. What are you teaching him when you say “You look so handsome!” instead of “You must’ve spent extra time combing your hair today!”? How about “You’re such a great artist” versus “That art must’ve taken a lot of time and patience!”?