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November 01, 2019 2 min read

One of the goals of parents and educators is to help children become intrinsically motivated.  That means that a child’s motivation to do well comes from within rather than by the allure of a reward or to avoid punishment (extrinsic motivation).  One way to help children develop intrinsic motivation is through the use of effective praise. Effective Praise:

  • Is Specific, Descriptive and Honest:  Use clear language about what your child has done instead of general statements:
      • Nice job remembering to capitalize the first letter in your name.” instead of  “Nice Writing.”
      • "You remembered to take the laundry out of the dryer as soon as it was done.” instead of “Good job with the laundry.
  • Focuses on Progress and Effort:  Acknowledge and encourage the effort and progress your child has made.
      • You spent a lot of time studying for your math test and you got a better grade than you did last time.
      • “Remember when you were afraid to swim in the deep end of the pool, but you kept trying and now you can swim all the way across it?”
  • Is about a Behavior instead of a Natural Ability or Character Trait:  When a child is praised for something that comes easily to them or that they perceive as just a part of who they are, they are less likely to believe that they have the power to change or improve it.
      • We’ve noticed how hard you are working to get good grades.  You do your homework every night without being asked and you don’t wait until the last minute to do it.” instead of “You’re so smart.” 
      • “You’re writing has improved because you have added more details to your writing” instead of “You’re a good writer.”
      • “I can tell that you have been practicing your dance routine after class because you remembered every part of it.”instead of“You’re a great dancer”.  
  • Is Genuine:  Avoid praising too often or for minor reasons because this can make your praise seem insincere. Consider this anonymous quote to illustrate this point: 

You need to ignore what everyone else is doing and achieving. Your life is about breaking your own limits and outgrowing yourself to live your best life. You are not in competition with anyone else.  Plan to outdo your past, not other people.”  

Although it is not easy to give effective praise, it is worth taking the time to think about what you want to say to your children when you praise them. If you practice giving effective praise when it is well-deserved, you will help your children develop the intrinsic motivation to become confident, resilient and independent.  

 Any questions?  Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com.  Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.

 (Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay)