Striking the right balance between too little and too much praise

Jun 2012
Striking the right balance between too little and too much praise
Students who are over-praised become risk-averse, make less effort, and are less self motivated.

Positive praise is a fantastic way to boost children's self-esteem and encourage them in their learning. If a child feels that their efforts are being recognised they may be more motivated to complete their work to the best of their ability.

While praise should be used as often as possible, there may be instances where parents need to point out mistakes in their child's work or correct children over careless work. Studies at Stanford University, California, have reached the conclusion that students who are over-praised become risk-averse, make less effort, and are less self motivated.

A recent report by a parliamentary group on social mobility made several recommendations on how parents can interact with their children. These included 'giving praise when they have done something good'.

Below are a few ways that parents may be able to strike the right balance between too little and too much praise.

Point out the positives but don't omit the negatives
If a child has spent hours pouring over a piece of work then it is important that their hard work is acknowledged. However, if their work has not reflected their homework brief or they have failed to follow instructions, you can follow a positive comment with a suggestion for how they can improve their work.

For example, you could say 'I love the introduction to your story, why don't you try including some adjectives', and use an upbeat tone to reassure children.

Give regularly but rewards sparingly
Children can be given verbal praise for completing a variety of tasks, from their school work to completing their daily chores. They can also be praised for using their manners, being kind and considerate, and a host of other reasons.

However, using rewards such as days out or computer time should be saved for when children have performed to the best of their ability on numerous occasions. For example, children could choose a gift from a reward jar once they have gained a certain amount of stickers to mark instances of positive praise.