Does Praise Create Pain?

The following is an excerpt from this week’s Love and Logic blog. To read the full text visit my blog.
 
Why do so many adults, from so many varied walks of life, say the same thing about praise? “It backfires with a lot of kids. Their behavior actually gets worse after receiving it.”
 
What is “Praise”?
 
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Praise” means, “to express a favorable judgment of: commend.”
 
Examples from daily life include:
 

•  Super job!

•  You are so bright.

•  Way to go!

Two Types of Praise
 

Spontaneous
 
This type comes from sincere excitement over something a child has done. Most of the time, I encourage people to relax and allow this type to happen.
 
Intentional
 
This type is done by good-hearted people for the express purpose of shaping behavior. This type is the most likely to backfire. 

An Alternative: Notice and Describe
 
In this week’s blog I also describe three reasons why intentional praise can create pain for some children. For the purposes of this brief tip, let’s simply look at an alternative to praise.

Notice and describe the behavior without judging it. 
Examples:

•  I noticed that you finished the assignment even though it was challenging.

•  You did all of your chores without being reminded. How does that feel?

•  I noticed that you kept your cool when those kids were teasing you. What was that like for you?

•  I noticed that you spent a lot of time today helping your little brother.

•  You completed nine out of ten correctly. I imagine that feels really good.

If praise seems to be making things worse with a child you know, experiment with these ideas. The underlying message sent to the child will be:

I love you unconditionally. 
You don’t have to earn my love, and you can’t lose it.
You get to decide how you feel about your accomplishments.

Again, check out the full blog here.
 
Dr. Charles Fay