I was listening to an audio recently on the topic of children & praise. As a parent I enjoy encouraging my children, noticing and commenting on their efforts. The unique point made in this discussion was this: praise the effort not the product.
At first, this seemed a minor distinction. The more I considered it, the more useful the guideline became. When I praise my child’s drawing as beautiful, it sets up the expectation that his results must be outstanding. What’s wrong with that? At first blush—nothing.
However, my intent is not to encourage his artistic skills. It is to reinforce the willingness to strive and persevere even when their initial results might be amateurish. I want him/her to be willing to be ‘at the bat’ repeatedly. Home runs don’t happen every time. What can occur each time they are ‘up’ is to give it their best effort. As they practice, again and again, eventually excellence will come. They will operate from a commitment to strive and a confidence to expect eventual not instantaneous effort.
That’s what I want to reinforce: success comes over time through effort and perseverance. Praise the process/effort, not the product. “You worked so hard on that drawing. I’m proud of your effort. I can see you’re proud of your work too! It makes me feel good to do my best. I bet you feel that way too.”
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