Praise the effort, not the child, Temple study suggests
February 18, 2013By Maiken Scott
Love that picture your child drew for you? Before you say, "you're such a good artist," consider this new research on praise from Temple University.
Temple psychology professor Elizabeth Gunderson observed parents and their kids at home, when the kids were 1, 2 and 3 years old. She studied and analyzed how praise was doled out. When the kids were about 8, she asked them questions about learning, intelligence and challenges. She found that the style of praise parents gave had a significant impact on kids.
"When you praise kids by saying something like 'good job' or 'you worked hard,' you praise the process, that tends to lead to more beneficial outcomes than praising the person, by saying something like 'you're smart' or 'you're good at that.'"
Gunderson says the children who received process-related praise were more likely to believe that they could improve their own abilities with hard work, and were more likely to be willing to try challenging tasks.
She says this kind of attitude is important for persistence and academic achievement as well as more social aspects of children's development.
"To have this mindset that your ability is something that you can always improve, if you work hard, and one way to foster that mindset is to praise the process and to really praise children for their effort," said Gunderson.
The researcher added that this long-term study done in people's homes validates previous lab studies that also found that how parents praise matters.