A perfect example of it is not very hard to find. I have observed it in our daily life with my 3 years old daughter. She was going to the preschool and started to learn the numbers and to trace them. As she goes to an international school, the environment is to praise the child for every bit of achievement. It was going on for long enough, but her expectations of praising her for every single number she traced was becoming a habit. When we praised her; "you are a smart girl" she would enjoy tracing it. She believed she is a real smart girl. Suddenly she found out that remembering number 2 was difficult and she faced a hurdle to trace it. After a few try, she would shift to trace or write other numbers leaving number 2. The tracing of number 2 was difficult for her and posed a threat to her smart image. Thus she put it aside immediately.
After going through some articles on the power of praise and their use and abuse I came to conclusions that our old method of appreciating the effort of the child is the best to stick on.
I shifted my focus from praising her to saturation; to her efforts. Simply I coaxed and cajoled her to write the number 2 and sincerely appreciated her effort. She slowly tried by herself to practice it a few more times. Significantly I reduced the praise for every letter or number she would write. In future it will make her less intimidated by the new academic challenges she would face every day.
- Praise needs to be specific. (An example of it can be how many times the child has tried to learn notes of a piano entirely. ) Instead, we often blast off with a casual praise “It is great “ good job. Such generic words reduce the efficacy.
- The sincerity of praise: Children can undoubtedly sniff out the hidden agenda of praise and feel our true intentions. A child around 3 to 4 years can easily distinguish it. Many of us have encountered it though we fail to recognise that insincere praise was a failure and many times apparently backfired. The other day my daughter was singing some nursery rhymes to one of our relatives. They clapped and praised her a lot. We were busy chatting about other things, and our attention got a bit wayward. After the end of each rhyme, we would clap. Suddenly my daughter stood up and said “ No need to clap” Everyone was a bit taken aback and asked, “Why?” She replied. "I sing these rhymes every day, and all my friends sings the same. It is not new. "I understood that she have sensed that it is no great deal to sing the rhymes. The praise was phony and our main agenda were to keep her engaged. The clear telltale sign of insincerity of praise a child could make out.
- Exercise Moderation in praising: When we excessively praise a child it has a distorting effect on motivation.They are accustomed and made to believe hearing praise is the important goal. You can observe it in reality shows of kids. The kids are profusely praised at the end of each performance. If the recognition is not that intense as the child expects he or she gets tensed and sad. The goal of intrinsic self-enjoyment in performing gets lost. The ultimate goal becomes difficult for them to achieve as motivation has been altered at an early age.
- Praise of effort to find the mistake in their failure: The child should never starts to believe that failure is non-existent. The opportunity to discuss the mistake and rebuild on it is lost. The result is that the kid grows up fearing failure and grim consequences of total emotional breakdown happens. So ask your child what went wrong in that particular work or study or homework or any test the child has undertaken. Inquire and give them a chance to recognise the mistake. Please restrain yourself from giving a reply “ Doesn't matter better next time”. Your answer should follow the lines like “Ok now you have found out the mistakes of your failure. A good job done. Next time put your effort to rectify it. Surely your outcome will be better.” Thus you can easily end on a positive note.
The onus of overpraising our child falls on parents. We put the child in a highly competitive environment and then use a dollop of praise to minimise the effect of the competition. It works short term but harms more in the long run perspective. Simple after the end of the day discuss with your child the difficulties the child faced and how they have invented strategies to overcome the struggles. Make it an everyday affair and praise the tactics if they were helpful in long run.They serve the great purpose of boosting self-esteem instead of just a mere blanket praising.The difference is sure to be evident within a few months.