Monday, July 21, 2008

The Effects of Praise

What scientific studies reveal about the right way to praise kids? 
By Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.

In many cultures—-like China-—praise is rare. People worry about the effects of praise. That too much praise will inflate the ego...make people too big for their britches.

This seems to be an ancient concern.

Modern-day hunter-gatherers—-people whose life-ways most closely resemble those of our ancestors—-are famously intolerant of big egos.

It used to be that way in the West, too. But today things are different. Westerners praise each other all the time. And Western parents praise their kids all the time.

Why? Because we think that praise is going to make our kids better—more motivated, more confident, more inclined to tackle challenges.

But does it really work that way?

Well, yes. Praise can be a powerful form of encouragement. For instance, moms who praise their preschoolers for their good manners have kids with better social skills (Garner 2006; Hastings et al 2007).

But in some cases, praise can actually undermine your child’s motivation.