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The Intellectual Debacle: The Problem with Praising Children on Achievement

5 pages
1205 words
Carnegie Mellon University
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Term paper
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Individuals in society are primarily motivated to achieve based on rewards outside of their interest. This originated with parents praising their child for their natural ability to complete a task rather than the efforts applied to the task. There are two types of praise. Personal and effort-based praises. Personal praise focus on a childs personality and natural abilities, as opposed to effort based which focus on the students efforts to the task. From the very beginning, society has used praise as a means of motivation after the book, The psychology of self-esteem, was published, in 1969, with the publication suggesting many problems in American society stemmed from a lack of self -esteem (Lowry). To counter the issue of self-esteem, children should regularly be raised in their efforts rather than their abilities. Children lose their intrinsic motivation where they develop learned helplessness, a term used to describe a child, and their negative experience with a situation in which they give up all hope. That scenario is likely to emerge where a student feels some form of helplessness, often a result of efforts that go unrecognized. It is therefore essential that children be praised, whenever they put a good effort into some task.

Children should be praised for their effort, rather than their natural ability because without such they will eventually lose their intrinsic motivation (Harari, Oren, and Martin V. Covington). Research shows that students tend to lose interest when praised on their natural abilities. For instance, if a teachers forms of praise involve telling the student how a good science he is, then such student will mostly like view himself as perfect, unable to improve any further. What continues from this point is that the student will lose interest in further praise. However, studies have also shown that even talents or natural abilities require a lot of effort, which when disregarded, the performance may be affected. This is where the concept of effort based praise comes from.

Effort based praise involves praising the child for the effort he puts on a particular task, even though he shows extraordinary talent (Amanda). To illustrate that issue, a highly talented footballer will be able to do remarkable things on file based on his skills. However, these skills are affected by several things. For instance, for such athlete to ensure their skills remain at the apex, they must train regularly to stay physically fit, train with teammates to build coordination and teamwork skills, among others things. Just from that example, it is imperative that a highly talented player who doesnt train regularly and observe diet may easily lose his physical fitness, affecting their skills on the field. In children, things can be rectified by simple praises. If you just tell the child, Great! I like your dedication to training, rather than saying, Great, you are a perfect footballer, will build the childs confidence and boost his morale to continue with his constancy. In the two praises, one just reaffirms the effort the child puts into training, and the other just acknowledges the talent. Whereas the kid may know that his consistency in training needs constant efforts, an acknowledgment of ability will make him think is already good enough. The same can be interrupted in school work, like science and mathematics. Instead of telling a kid he is an excellent mathematician because he had a good grade, just compliment the efforts put on homework, calculations of the work and so forth, things he will credit to effort.

Another emphasis psychologist is focusing on is that while praising children, you should do it against themselves, not against others. For instance, it is wrong to compare a childs effort with another child. That would be problematic and may end up hurting the child more than expected. Praises should be about the child himself. Instead of comparing a child performance based on the performance of another one, just use his previous efforts to praise his current ones ("Psychology: Motivation And Learning"). For instance, instead of saying, James utilized all her graph paper so well, just tell the child, You have utilized all your graph paper unlike last time, you can surely see the values so clearly now. The later will boost the childs morale, and make him appreciate the progress he is making. Contrary, the former will just undermine his ability and may end up ruining his self-confidence mainly if the other student performs better than him.

However, whether the praise is based on talents or efforts, there are fundamental principles they should follow, if they are to be effective. The first is sincerity (Amanda). It is worth telling your student you like how she made the cake, rather than saying its the best cake you have ever eaten. The later would not be right, and the student may develop self-doubt out of it. The second issue is being specific (Amanda); if a student has performed so well in science, instead of giving a generalized comment, just say the exact thing which might have led to the performance. For example, I like how you organized your experiment and results. Through that, the student will know where she did well, and as a result, will keep putting more effort on the specific unit. Lastly, is being real (Amanda) For instance, in a simulation experiment, instead of telling the student he is destined to own a manufacturing company, just say he has done an exemplary job in running the process and stop there. Over-exaggeration will have a negative implication on the student.

One thing which comes out on the debacle of praising children on performance is not whether they are being honored for natural abilities or efforts. No. It is how the praising is done by teachers, and by extension parents or any interested party. To some extent, good performance is dependent on talent; this is particularly true for outdoor activities like sports and arts. However, a lot more things in all human beings are building out of our abilities on learning, to put reasonable efforts and so on. Just like the later, effort is also critical in talents. Given it is applied in both cases; it then comes down to how it is administered. Something the article has explained in detail. Instead of trying to make a learner see like he or she has hit the best possible level, and start wondering if there can ever be any improvement, just make him or her to know all the achievements are anchored on efforts. That way, they will keep note of the initiative, with the intention to either remain consistent or improve to record better performance.


Works Cited

Lowry, Lauren. "Good job!" Is Praising Young Children a Good idea? The Hanen Centre,!-Is-Praising-Young-Children-a-Good-idea.aspx.

Encouraging and praising children. KidsMatter,

Harari, Oren, and Martin V. Covington. Reactions to Achievement Behavior from a Teacher and Student Perspective: A Developmental Analysis. American Educational Research Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, 1981, pp. 1528. JSTOR, JSTOR,

"Psychology: Motivation and Learning." GSI Teaching Resource Center. Accessed December 11, 2017.

Morin, Amanda. The Power of Praise. Understood,

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