A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

The Power of Praise: Effort, Not Person

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Everyone likes to be acknowledged for doing a good job. Now new research shows praising young children for their efforts can have major benefits later. Such praise can build children’s motivation to work hard.

Encouraging your kids is part of being a parent. But a new study shows there may be power in your praise! Researchers looked at how parental praise during the toddler years affected kids when they were in fourth grade. Results showed parents who praised their toddlers were more likely to have fourth graders with an incremental motivational framework, which means they believed intelligence could be improved with hard work. The study also found kids with an incremental motivational framework had high achievements in math and reading comprehension. This type of thinking leads to perseverance.

Experts say the best kind of praise is process praise. This means praising the effort instead of the person. For example, phrases like “I like how you tried” or “great catch” are better than “you’re so smart” or “good boy.”

Previous research has suggested that “person praise”—or simply praising a person and not an action—can be a bad thing. But interestingly, this study found no connection between the amount of “person praise” and the child’s motivational framework later on.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Julie Marks, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Original research: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-52421-001

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