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Giving Praise

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (December 28, 2013)


“What a beautiful drawing!”

“Good goal!”


“You’re so smart for getting an A in your test!”


Everyone loves praise. Who doesn’t want to be told how amazing they are or how wonderful their work is? When I’ve given praise to kids, I’ve seen them beam with a smile and walk off afterwards with a spring in their step. And it feels good to have made someone else happy. So I love doling out compliments to children. But as adults, we have to be cautious about how we give praise to children.


Many articles have come out recently that quote the research of Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford. Dr. Dweck’s research is on the perils and promise of praise and the effect that it can have on children. She talks about how giving children praise in a way that highlights result and not effort actually deters them from trying hard.


When giving praise on the outcome of an action, such as the good grade of a test, the artwork painted, a good game played, then children feel like only the result of their action is being commended. This may lead them to feel like they have to perform every time and that there’s also a fear of failure or disappointment. Whereas, if the praise is given for the effort, then there is a motivation to put more effort in the following time to get better results.


Praise also affects how a child views his/her own intelligence. For some children, they think that how smart they are in something is static and can’t be changed. In those situations, they don’t try doing things they don’t think they are ‘smart’ in and only focus on the things they are ‘smart’ at doing. However, with students like these, if the focus is taken off the end-product (the output), then they slowly realise that with effort, the outcome can be affected. They soon realise that their ‘smartness’ is actually like a muscle, one that can be strengthened with practice and use.


This type of praise is especially important with children that are in school systems that label them as being ranked a certain number in the class according to performance or have to take IQ tests that tell them where they are ‘on the curve’.


I remember when I was 6 years old, I struggled tremendously in Math at school. I just really struggled with juggling all the different numbers and couldn’t wrap my mind around how the numbers could be manipulated to make new ones. In my struggle, my mum then tried to help me and struggled to teach me. When she went to a parent-teacher meeting to meet my class teacher, and asked my teacher how she could help me improve in Math (and other areas), my teacher told her, “there’s nothing you can do. That’s just the way she is”. My mother was devastated as you can imagine. At the age of 6, I was labeled as someone who wasn’t smart in Math.


As I changed schools and encountered different teachers that gave me praise and encouragement for my effort, I started to realise that my future in Math was not doomed. There were teachers that explained things to be in a way that I could understand better and then praised me for thinking things through and working hard on equations. Later in high school, I chose to take Math as my exam subjects and ended up doing better in Math than many other subjects.


What I learnt is what Carol Dweck says – if praise if given for effort, it encourages the student to try hard, be motivated and achieve more than what was thought possible.


So some practical suggestions would be to substitute praise phrases. For example:


“What a beautiful painting” => “I really like the colours you used in your painting”


“Well done for winning” => “Well done for trying your best out on the football field today!”


“You’re so smart for getting an A” => “I’m so proud of you for studying so hard for your test. It paid off!”


So next time your child does well, think twice before saying ‘Good job’. There’s a lot more you could say.



#Giving#showing_love #words_of_affirmation #love #praise #Carol_Dweck

讚美的魔法


「畫得真好!」


「這球入得漂亮!」


「你在測驗中得到A,很厲害啊!」


每個人都喜歡讚美的說話。誰不想被人稱讚自己了不起,又或是自己的作品有多好?每次讚賞孩子後,我總發現他們會笑逐顏開、歡蹦亂跳。他們歡喜的同時,我也感到很高興,因此我很喜歡讚美孩子。但我們讚美孩子時,有些事情是要特別注意的。


最近很多文章引用了史丹福心理學家卡羅爾·徳韋克的研究,內容是有關讚美孩子時的技巧和難處,以及有可能對孩子造成的影響。她提到到讚美孩子的時候,若只著重結果而非過程付出的努力,會磨滅他們盡力做事的決心。


當我們只讚揚事情的結果,例如孩子在測驗中取得優秀的成績、製作出令人驚歎的勞作和勝出比賽,會令孩子以為只有正面的結果才得到鼓勵,亦會開始害怕面對失敗和失望。但是,若父母是對孩子在過程中付出的努力作出稱讚,他們會在過後的日子加倍努力,以取得更好的成績。


別人的稱讚亦會影響孩子怎樣看待自己的才能,有些孩子認為自己的資質是不能改變的,因此他們不會埋首一些自己認為是弱項的事情,轉而只投放精力在自己的「強項」上。對於這些孩子,如果我們不把焦點放在成果上,他們會慢慢理解原來只要全力以赴,他們還是可以改變結果的。他們會明白所謂的資質,其實就像身體上一塊肌肉,經過不斷鍛鍊,便會慢慢強壯起來。


有些學校會根據學生的學習表現來把他們分等級和名次,又或是讓他們參與智力測試來把他們定於不同的水平,而把重點放在過程的讚美說話對這類學生尤其重要。


記得當我六歲的時候,我很抗拒數學科。對於玩弄數字的小把戲,以及怎樣周旋於不同的公式,我毫無頭緒。當時媽媽很盡心盡力地幫助我,又不厭其煩教導我。家長日當天,她問我的班主任如何協助我改善數學(當然還有其他方面),老師告訴她:「沒有甚麼你可以做的,她就是這樣子。」可以想像到媽媽當時是多麼失望和無助!女兒僅僅六歲,就被裁定是數學弱者。


其後我轉了校,遇到不同的老師,他們不約而同地讚賞我在數學科的表現,也對我的努力作出鼓勵,我漸漸醒悟到原來我還有進步空間。老師會用一些令我更易明白的方法向我解釋,更讚許我在運算方面下的苦功。在中學時,我選擇了數學為考試科目,最後取得的成績亦較其他科目優秀。


我學習到的正正是卡羅爾·徳韋克所說——若讚賞在過程付出的努力,會驅使孩子更努力和更有動力地達到目標,效果更會遠超乎我們想像。


因此,在讚美的用詞上,我有一些建議:


「畫得真好!」可以說成:「我喜歡你在圖畫中所用的顏色!」


「勝出比賽真了不起!」可以說成:「你在足球比賽上全力以赴,真了不起!」


「你在測驗中得到A,很厲害啊!」可以說成:「我為你在測驗中的努力感到驕傲,現在看到成果了!」


下次當孩子表現理想時,讚他「真犀利」前請三思,我們還有很多具體的讚美說話可以說呢!


christine@jems.com.hk

劉馬露明