January Parenting Tip of the Month
Making the Most of Praise
Have you ever said “Good job!” “Way to go!” or “You’re so smart!” to your child? These are common phrases parents give their children as a way to celebrate a success or to offer encouragement. Praise is often used by parents and caregivers to build children’s self-esteem or to motivate them. Did you know that not all praise is the same?

There are different types of praise and research has shown a difference between person praise and process praise . Person praise focuses on what an adult thinks and evaluates a child’s traits, for example, “I love your picture” and “You’re so smart!” This type of praise tends to be general and encourages children to do things to please adults and obtain their approval versus being proud of their own accomplishments. Studies on praise have shown that person praise can reduce a child’s motivation, because it encourages a fixed mindset. This means that accomplishments are viewed as something you are born with or naturally have or do not have.

In contrast, praises like “Look at all the different colors you used on your picture” and “Wow! You worked hard putting the puzzle together” are examples of process praise. Process praise focuses on the child’s effort, points out specific facts and is non-judgmental. It also provides encouragement to children to continue with their work or effort. Children who receive process praise are likely to develop self-motivation and pride in their own work. Additionally, this type of praise has shown to encourage children to take on challenges. Because process praise is specific and encourages a growth mindset, children receive information that teaches that effort can lead to success.
Process praise can also be used to manage your child’s behavior. Instead of focusing on your child’s negative behavior by telling them what not to do, focus on what your child is doing well to increase their appropriate behavior. For example, “Thank you for sharing the truck with your sister.” Additionally, when your child makes a mistake or fails at something, focus on what your child did accomplish for example, “You were so close. The ball missed the basket, but touched the rim.” If using process praise is new for you, it can be difficult to make changes. If you find yourself giving only person praise or general praise like, “Good job!” then extend it with process praise, “You used eight blocks to make your tower. Keep going!” 

January 24 is National Compliment Day. This is a great time to think about the types of praise you use with your child and to practice giving praises that acknowledge your child’s efforts as a way to build their motivation and confidence.  

For more information and examples of process praise, visit the Mindset Works website at https://www.mindsetworks.com/parents/growth-mindset-parenting and Child Care Aware of Kansas's handout on process praise at https://ks.childcareaware.org/wp-content/uploads/Consumer-Ed_Growth-Mindset-2.pdf

Source: “Good Job!” Is Praising Young Children a Good Idea?   http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Good-job!-Is-Praising-Young-Children-a-Good-idea.aspx