Too Much Praise

I find research on kids behavior fascinating.  Most recently I read this article in the New York Times, called Too Much Praise is No Good For Toddlers, by Jenny Anderson.

In brief:

“Now, new research shows that too much praise for children as young as 1 to 3 can have negative repercussions down the road. (How did I spend my morning? Cheering on my 1-year old for the triangles she was putting into the triangle slots, and lauding my 3-year-old for clearing her plate.) …

In Dr. Carol Dweck’s previous research, she’s showed that praising children for their intelligence or abilities often undermines motivation and hurts performance. Kids who are told they are smart care more about performance goals and less about learning. Kids praised for their efforts believe that trying hard, not being smart, matters. These kids are “resilient” and take more risks.”

Breaking the praise reflex can be tough, and some parents struggle with what would fill up all of those interactions.  The key is just turning off the judgments.  In those moments when my kids come to me with a picture, I just look at it.  And when they come running to me with a she-did-this-to-me problem, I just listen.  Little people regularly surprise me with just how much curiosity, motivation, and social skills they have, and the beauty of it is that it is innate to them.  A parent’ job is to give your kid the space to honor and express herself; which is hard to do if she always has one eye on her mom to see if she approves.

A great book about this topic is Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.

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