Saturday, June 5, 2010
At school, I've been trying to keep to the rule of thumb: avoid all forms of rewards and punishments. (Alfie Kohn's book on the subject is all one needs to read to be convinced of their ineffectiveness.) While this is pretty straightforward in terms of not having sticker charts, grades, time out corners, and other typical classroom methods of control, I find it trickier when it comes to praise. It can be hard to find the right words when confronted with a beaming child!
For me, the bottom line with praise is that there is a right and wrong way to do it.
I find the arguments against using praise convincing:
-It is ultimately a form of "sugar coated" manipulation
-Children can become dependent on it
-It messes with children's motivations
-It can often belittle a child's success or joy (it can be kind of patronizing)
-It can create a pressure to "perform"
-It can rob a child of their sense of accomplishment
-Often it's just a habitual reaction instead of a genuninely thought-felt comment
(If you're not convinced by my bullet points, here's a great little article with more details about why a certain kind of praise is not the best way to acknowledge a child's achievement.)
At our Conscious Discipline meeting today, we touched on the subject of verbal encouragement. I liked the way our teacher, Helen Guda, spoke about the messages we convey when we praise and her suggestions on how to offer praise consciously.
- You can simply describe what the child did. ex: "You finished the addition tables!"
-Connect what the child did with the feelings of joy and satisfaction they got from their accomplishment. ex: "I can see you are feeling so proud about learning how to play that song on the xylophone."
-Describe what you see. "You put on your shoes all by yourself and you look very happy."
-Notice the effort and progress of the child. ex: "The last time you tried, you walked around half of the line before the water spilled. This time you made it all the way around."
-Notice the contributions that children bring to the group. ex: "You washed the snack table and now everyone will get to eat snack on a clean table."
-Consider if it's really necessary to say ANYTHING AT ALL. Sometimes just a smile is enough recognition.