Devaluated praise

According to some psychologists and researchers, praising everything children do does not build self-esteem — eventually the praise becomes meaningless. Instead of continually praising students, teachers should substitute descriptive comments or cite specific improvements in work. Although praise is obviously good for children, if adults applaud everything children do, the praise can eventually lose its effectiveness.

Benjamin Mardel, a researcher with Harvard’s Project Zero states:

“Blanket, automatic, or empty praise is useless. Children see through it. They can learn more from descriptive comments. The praise has to be grounded in something real.” Mardel also commented that he would not want to see the pendulum swing back to the other extreme where teachers withhold praise for genuine accomplishments. “The joy and excitement of learning can co-exist with some of the tension and anxiety that’s also part of learning. Teachers can help build children’s self-esteem by creating classroom atmospheres in which children feel comfortable and secure and classmates support one another”.

I think, my self, that “cheap praise” is even worse that not praising at all. At home or at school, we cannot continuously praise our students for achieving those actions they’re supposed to do, or we will make duty something exceptional. And, most important, praise should be based in real effort and balanced with tha magnitude of the achievement. Children (and young people) too used to be rewared at every step often lack intrinsic motivation and are hardly conscious of their real level of performance, and tend to overvaluate their own work and, in consequence, fail to perceive the motivation to work harder to catch up with real requirements.

Praise, and reward, and do it also for behaviour and attitude and not only for academic achievements, but try to not over-inflate students own perception with unjudicious use. And play fair! Every student has something it deserves being praised for!

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