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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Effective Praise: Give the Right Compliments to Students

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EducationWorld article contributed by Kumar Sathy, educator and author of Attack of the Chicken Nugget Man: A National Test Prep Adventure.

You are so good at that!” you announce to the child, firmly believing that this warm praise is going to boost the child’s self-esteem and increase performance. But in study after study, and book after book, the widely accepted consensus is that complimenting kids can cause lifelong problems and actually decrease performance, especially if you are dishing out the wrong type of praise.

Photo: EducationWorld

The compliments that the majority of us are accustomed to blurting out when a child does something notable are precisely the type of compliments that can have unintended negative side effects. Studies suggest that complimenting children in this way can lead to a mindset that intelligence and certain admirable qualities are innate, or fixed (i.e., kids either have them or they don’t). One study demonstrated that kids who performed well on an easy test and were told, “You must be smart at this,” subsequently chose an easier test when given an option of two more tests to complete. In contrast, 90% of the students praised for effort voluntarily chose the more difficult test.

Fixed compliments are not only dangerous, but also counterproductive.

Here are some examples of these dangerous fixed compliments that paint a picture of innate traits:
  • You’re so smart!
  • You’re great at math!
  • You’re so good at writing!
  • You’re such a talented artist!
  • You’re a great reader!
That last one is especially toxic, and it becomes exceedingly clear once we follow the life of a well-intentioned compliment. First, you notice how well your child or student read and comprehended a particular paragraph. You say, “You’re a great reader!” The child absorbs this information, and if he or she is young enough, believes it. Sounds great, right? The problem is that’s just the beginning.

Source: EducationWorld

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