As a classroom teacher, I was taught that the most powerful praise is specific to student behavior. That praising on specific behavior is an effective management strategy for increasing appropriate behavior.
So I made a point to do just that... “It was so sweet of you to help your friend tie their shoelaces!” “I am so proud of you for sharing your crayons with your friend!”
And I noticed a wonderful change in their desire to do the right thing. They wanted my praise so they often continued those specific behaviors (helping friends, sharing etc).
However, since reading, ‘Originals: How Non-conformists Move The World’ by Adam Grant, I’ve been introduced to a different technique. One that praises character. I found this new way of praising so interesting and so different from what I've been doing... that I thought I would share it with you!
‘Many parents and teachers praise helpful (behaviors), but children are more generous when they’re commended for being helpful people- it becomes part of their identity. If you see a child do something good, try saying, “You’re a good person because you_.” Children are also more ethical when they’re asked to be moral people- they want to earn the identity. If you want a child to share a toy, instead of asking, “Will you share?” ask, “Will you be a sharer?”
Grant speaks of an experiment led by psychologist Joan Grusec. Children were asked to share marbles with their peers. A select group were assigned to be praised on their behavior, “It was good that you gave some of your marbles to those poor children. Yes, that was a nice and helpful thing to do.” The other group received character praise. “I guess you’re the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can. Yes, you are a very nice and helpful person."
The study concluded that the children who received character praise were more generous. Grant states that when our character is praised, we internalize it as part of our identities. Instead of seeing ourselves as engaging in isolated moral acts, we start to develop a more unified self-concept as a moral person.
Grant says that, instead of asking whether this behavior will achieve the results they want, they take action because it is the right thing to do.
Whether you decide to praise on specific behavior or character, be generous with your praise. Preschoolers have an insatiable appetite for praise and the desire to please adults is an important influence on their motivation and learning.
Praising does not need to be boring...there are ways to make it fun! Click to download ‘10 Ways To Praise’ brought to you by Brainy Teach Blog. Print it out and keep it handy...these cheers are sure to make your preschooler giggle!