Praise and criticism

It is amazing how the language we use can encourage our children. Here is an interesting piece from the Growing Child newsletter distributed by Lifestart

There are two ways to praise a child for something she has done. You can say, as you watch her finish her latest artwork, “Oh, what a lovely picture. It looks just like a sunset. You are a good artist.” Or you can say, “I like the way the colours drip together. You really used a lot of paint this time.”

When you say her painting is a lovely picture, perhaps the praise fails to match what the child has actually done. She has been experimenting with how it works. You say it is a sunset. She knows it isn’t, but she keeps that her little secret. She understands that her picture has to be something for you to like it, that practicing with paint isn’t worthy of praise. She knows she isn’t an artist—but she’ll go along to win your praise.

The second way to praise states the obvious: She has used a lot of paint, and you appreciate that. You like the way the colours drip together. What gives her pleasure gives you pleasure, too. Her experimenting with colour is an admired skill. She did it well. Praising her this way helps her to judge her work appropriately, to feel that what she actually does is valued by people who count.

There are two ways to criticize a child for something she has done. You can say, as her glass of milk spills onto the floor: “Look what you’ve done. You are so clumsy.” Or you can say, “You put your glass too close to the edge of the table. Now help me clean up this milk.” When you tell a child what she is—a clumsy person—you judge her. She is always clumsy, and will always be. But when you tell her exactly what she has done, she can judge her action as it really is. She can avoid spilling her milk like that next time.

No parent exasperated by mud tracks on the floor or stepped-on crayons in the rug, can resist saying “careless.” And most times, by the twentieth scribble, no long really interested, we say “beautiful” without a thought. But if parents can avoid for much of the time praise and criticism that judges the child herself, and instead judge the product or the action, a child will become more able to measure her behaviour, to pursue what she is good at, to work on what is difficult, to like herself the way she is.

The GROWING TOGETHER NEWSLETTER is issued by; GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363.

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