Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Praise, Acknowledgement, and Inner Motivation

I always strive to improve my teaching practice, especially my interaction with the children I teach. Creating a bond, connecting with them, will ensure that what I teach gets through to them. Giving feedback is one aspect that is truly important when it comes to teaching (or parenting).

You probably heard that “good job!” has a bad reputation and here’s why: it’s too general (the child might not understand what exactly he is praised for), it doesn’t necessarily mean that the adult actually paid attention to what the child was doing (sometimes it’s a filler, and it’s not genuine), it’s vague, it praises the end result, not the process, and it gets a child dependent on external praise, if used too often. Actually, the former is why we should always use acknowledgement, rather that praise, when we give feedback. Children should be able to do things without expecting praise, stickers, compliments in return – intrinsic motivation will help them become better in everything they do in the future.

An acknowledgment describes a certain behavior in an objective manner, without judgment: “Your grades have gone up. How do you feel?”, or “You’ve been concentrating on the game for quite some time.”. The tone used is usually flat. Praise, on the other hand, takes the attention off the child, and puts the spotlight on the adult: “I love how you …!”, “I’m proud of you for…!”. This can also put a lot of stress on a child to perform or do certain things the way the adults want him to.

Here are some things you should keep in mind:
  • Children need to be treated with respect and they will cooperate. They don’t need bribes to do certain things. Put it this way – if there’s something you wouldn’t say to an adult, don’t say it to a child either. Try to be genuine in the things you say to a child, don’t just pay compliments for the sake of it: children feel when you’re being fake.
  • Some of you might think that praise actually helps children stay motivated while learning a new skill. But they will learn to crawl, walk, talk, write, etc. without it. Just trust them and their capabilities, and your emotional support will be enough.
  • When interacting with children, you should pay close attention to the way you think about yourself. Model a growth mindset (the belief that you can become better at something by working hard on it), perseverance, patience, and other positive traits, and they will see it.
  • Try not to interrupt your child’s concentration to acknowledge what he’s doing. Wait for the child to make eye contact or stop what he was doing, then say what you want.
  • Encourage their effort and focus on the process, not the end result.
Sure, it’s difficult to refrain from praising your kids, but acknowledgement is a matter of practice/habit. But don’t worry, you won’t damage your children by saying “good job!” every now and then.

Photo by Porapak

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