US Psychologist Alfie Kohn explains why it is better to take a real interest in your children's successes than to simply praise their achievements.

 

praise isn't feedback, it's a judgement

According to US psychologist Alfie Kohn you should never praise your child. “Praise isn’t feedback. It’s a judgement, and people rarely flourish as a result of being judged,” says the author of Punished by Rewards, which sums up his credo. Kohn believes that nine times out of ten, we use praise to make children do what we want: “We manipulate them with rewards instead of helping them to develop the skills they need.”

Unlike many of his peers, Kohn doesn’t even recommend praising children for the effort they put in. “Regardless of what it’s for, praise is construed by kids as conditional acceptance. They think, I’m only loved when X. Whether X = ‘I’m smart’, or ‘I try hard’ doesn’t matter much.” It can even be counter-productive. “Students who do an assignment simply to get an A are less likely to develop an interest in the subject or challenge themselves,” he argues.

 

take a real interest

None of which means you should ignore a child’s successes. In fact, you need to be more involved because it’s taking a real interest in what they do that helps grow their enthusiasm. “Asking ‘How did you put your shoes on/solve that equation?’ bolsters their confidence far more than any amount of ‘good girl’ comments,” says Kohn.

So maybe asking, “What is it?” when a child hands you her painting isn’t quite such a faux pas after all.

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