Looking into ‘Praise’

A decade ago, Praise in the form of ‘Well Done and Good Job’ was part of Early Childhood training and looked at with much respect. Now research has shown that such external motivation can have negative effects on the child. Children become dependent on praise to complete tasks and they don’t get the opportunity to develop their own self image and self esteem. The opinions of others become central and as they grow into adults when praise is limited self doubt sets in.

Children are meant to learn through process – processing in their mind activities, tasks etc. When we praise (continuously), we distract the child from processing and using the inquiring and cognitive part of the brain. In this case the praise given engages the child in the emotion of – perhaps feeling good that the parent / teacher is happy with them. There is no opportunity for the child to assimilate the information they had just gathered in their brain of the task they were working on; this is integral to cognitive and intellectual development.

Let us for a moment consider the emotions involved. Praise can feel great albeit momentarily. Some questions to think about before praising:

“Am I praising because I am happy with the work the child has done”. If yes, then, “Is the child working at this task for me?” “Is this the lifelong quality that I would like my child to learn?”

When we praise the child and then we don’t because the task/work was not to our satisfaction, we foster in the child a feeling of failure. Failure is but a step towards success essential to a process. Children learn from their errors if we allow them to process and correct these. When adults constantly praise and correct children, we create a high and low in emotion; this affects their social / emotional development.

Children engage in activities because nature has designed them to do so. This is why children keep saying to adults, “me do” or “I do”! Praising while this act of nature is taking place is merely a distraction and creating a codependency to people pleasing. The roots of self esteem and emotional resiliency lie in the child understanding their strengths, overcoming their challenges and remaining emotional stable through this without the interference of the adult.

Dr. Montessori in the 1800’s incorporated in her philosophy of education the factors and principles that led to higher levels of self esteem, confidence, intellectual, social, emotional development and independence of the child.
In today’s time, Early Childhood training is emphasizing on validating and encouraging the child which is gradually replacing praise like ‘Good Job’.

Montessori Learning Centre values whole child education – that is to nurture every aspect of the child. Contact [email protected] for further information.

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