To praise or not to praise....

<p>I was going to append this to the Risk/Failure thread, but thought it was unrelated enough to qualify as threadjacking.</p>

<p>The following Alfie Kohn article showed up on a friend's Facebook feed recently.</p>

<p>Criticizing</a> (common criticisms of) praise - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post</p>

<p>And while I appreciate the goal of the "Praise can be dangerous" concept, I really wonder how well it works in practice. Keep in mind that I'm a semi-Tiger Dad and my relatively high-achieving kids are hardly cosseted.</p>

<p>But I want to share a specific example. Just this past weekend, my younger daughter (not the one in BS) was in an athletic tournament which, by its nature, pits one athlete directly against another individual athlete. So, in every match there is a clear winner and loser.</p>

<p>According to Mr. Kohn's philosophy, the words "Good Job" should not be used. I truly don't see what else one might say to a kid who tried hard but came up short. "Tough loss?"</p>

<p>Also, what would one say in a case where your kid either did not try hard or kept on making the same error...and lost when he/she could have or should have won? Do you say "You lost because you kept on doing X, and it wasn't working." That seems a bit too pointed a remark to deliver in the wake of a defeat.</p>

<p>Here are some suggestions from Kohn as alternatives to "Good job":</p>

<ul>
<li>Say nothing</li>
<li>Say what you saw</li>
<li>Talk less, ask more</li>
</ul>

<p>I actually tried #2 and #3 at this tournament, but honestly felt like THE WORST DAD EVER. Especially with #2. Especially for the defeats she did not take well. </p>

<p>Would love to know others' POV on this and how you might handle or have handled similar situations.</p>

<p>Well, I certainly disagree with Mr. Kohn. Where does he get this stuff??? How does it hurt to give a child credit where credit is due? </p>

<p>If a child has worked hard and lost, I would say, "You really tried out there! I could see it! I saw when you (insert incident where child didn't mess up)."</p>

<p>Praise and appreciation are the grease that make life in a family run smoothly. When a family member has tried to do well, you praise him. You don't have to go overboard, but you praise whatever you can.</p>

<p>As a high school coach I belonged to an organization called the Positive Coaching Alliance. One of the easy principles that made me a better coach was to use the "sandwich" approach to giving constructive criticism. It made me a better coach and, because the message got through to the players, it made them better players.</p>

<p>The "sandwich" approach is simple. You put your criticism between two slices of praise.</p>

<p>For example, in lacrosse, a player may miss a ground ball that he should have scooped up. I could yell out, "Mortimer, you ass, how'd you miss that!" as the other team runs its fast break. Or I could use the sandwich, when I've got Mortimer's ear. "Okay, Mortimer, way to hustle and be first to that ball. But you need to get that back hand down in order to come up with it. So focus on that and keep up that hustle. We need that from you."</p>

<p>If you can't think of two different positive things, just use the same slice of bread on either side of the meat of your message. Praise, used wisely, can make criticism more effective and constructive. It works at home, too!</p>

<p>EDIT: Very cool...I found this link from a recent article on both PCA and the Criticism Sandwich: <a href="http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/the-power-of-positive-coaching/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/the-power-of-positive-coaching/&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>If you just say, "Wow! How could you have missed that?!", the kid isn't going to respond well. However, if you say "Here's what you could have done better...", a child will respond better to that. Encouragement will get you farther than belittling.</p>

<p>@laughalittle: Belittling, obviously, has got its own set of issues.</p>

<p>I'm really just trying to get suggestions on non-ridiculous alternatives to the simple, common "Good job" post performance. (Or advocacy for the relative innocuousness of using "Good job".)</p>

<p>One that comes to mind is to introduce an "I" component so it's not so much authoritative blanket judgement....the difference between "I like the new Madonna album." vs. "The new Madonna album sucks/is great." It's hard to debate personal tastes after all.</p>

<p>I think I do what D'yer describes. At a recent sporting event it was something like, "Good job, I could see you were really trying. Let's work on shooting baskets at home, there were some you just missed and I know you could get those if you practiced. It was a fun game to watch.". I don't see the point of not using a couple of words that come naturally (good job), but I do appreciate the spirit of not getting a kid used to such nonjudgmental praise that it stops meaning anything. (Frankly I couldn't understand what Alfie Kohn was talking about, but I don't think I would have wanted to be his kid. I think there are lots of ways to do a "good job" raising our children!)</p>

<p>I'm certainly no Kohn superfan, having been only recently introduced to him. </p>

<p>However, I do like his take on praising after some successful accomplishment...because then it seems conditional Ex: "I'm proud that you won the Geography Bee." makes it seem that you might not be proud of the child for a lesser performance.</p>

<p>Way to go, lemonade1!</p>

<p>Right - you can raise a child's natural serotonin levels with well-placed praise. If all they hear is criticism, then they become trained to know they'll only get attention when they do something negative. A psychologist once told me some students hear praise as a whisper but amplify criticism multiple times the level. So I like DyerMaker's sandwich analogy. Really - in a world filled with negative messages, how can praise for work well done, or even a failure after a hard fought try at something be a bad thing?</p>

<p>Kudos to SevenDad for bringing this concept to our attention! Although it wouldn’t necessarily rank as high as some the more insightful and reflective threads he has created, it most certainly gives the parents forum some fresh ideas not previously covered on this board. Bravo!</p>

<p>(A sandwich and a bag of chips on the side)</p>

<p>Asking questions is a good idea before jumping in with "good job" or "geez, it's tough out there" with oversympathizing. </p>

<p>For us, it was a difficult time, when my 10th grade son at BS didn't make the JV team in one of his fall sports. He earned a Varsity letter in a Spring sport as a Freshman last year.</p>

<p>I simply asked, "what happened?" in a neutral voice, seeking his take on the situation. I didn't tell him, "good job," or "you'll get it next year," or "it s---" rhymes with mucks.</p>

<p>I simply asked what he thought happened. It turned out he went out strong, but finished try-outs thinking he already had it in the bag, so didn't put forth a best effort and apparently it showed.</p>

<p>It's good not to be too quick to jump in. It was a lesson learned for him, and in the end, I think it was even better than making the JV team. If you want something, you have to work hard for it; don't expect to rest on your laurels for having played well last season.</p>

<p>This is SO relevant to the teenage years, when kids hear you very selectively. I'm probably the opposite of tiger dad--panda dad?--words are overrated, but a good hug and a genuine smile express support in victory or defeat.</p>

<p>I love it, Pelican Dad! Now every time I read one of your posts, I’m going to picture the Kung-Fu Panda character, and hear your response in Jack Black’s voice! Soft but strong! (lot to be said for that, by the way!)</p>

<p>@nylecoj007: I see what you did there! ;-P</p>

<p>Notwithstanding the article, all people really do expect praise for their work and enjoy appreciation. Further, part of how we help children and make them grow stronger is to help them figure out what they are good at and how they can contribute to society. </p>

<p>I am persuaded by studies that show students rewarded for high grades generally try to take easier tests, while students who are rewarded for effort try to take on greater challenges. </p>

<p>I do believe it matters whether feedback is sincere. If the child’s painting is super then yes say it is super! But I never say it is super unless it is really super. If it is terrible then the sandwich approach is a good one, although it is hard and perhaps counterproductive to completely erase the pain of constructive feedback. Pick your battles here; not all moments are teachable; sometimes silence is fine. Personally, I learned the most from the teachers who had the toughest grading policies.</p>

<p>Some other principles that I have heard and liked are:</p>

<ul>
<li><p>Instead of saying how you felt or "I am proud of you", ask the child how they felt and let them be the ones to feel proud of themselves</p></li>
<li><p>Teach them a process where we ALWAYS go back and review the mistakes and try to learn something from them, regardless of whether we got a D- or an A+. The real learning comes from after the test when you see what you got wrong. Wrong answers are not bad they just mean you have work to do.</p></li>
<li><p>As much as you can, let the child struggle and do things themselves, so they learn initiative rather than passivity. Use the Socratic method where you can.</p></li>
<li><p>Teach your child to praise the true strengths of their peers (rather than feel jealous) because that builds up the entire community</p></li>
</ul>

<p>I tell my kids: In a world of 7 billion people there is always someone out there who is smarter or better than you. Do not measure your self-worth as a comparison against your neighbor! Measure yourself by whether you have a big dream and are putting forth your best effort to achieve it. You cannot control nor do you really wish to minimize the talents of others; you can control yourself and your own choices.</p>

<p>The problem I have with the article is the silly comparison the motivation of a child and a subordinate in the workplace. Kids need encouragement, they are not open loop guided missiles.</p>

<p>Anyway, kids know when their performance is sub-par and where I agree with the article is the negative impact on the whole everyone gets a trophy syndrome or worse, let's not keep score in Little League. Give insincere feedback and the child will learn not to respect your input. Rather than offer performance praise after a loss, I tend to ask whether he tried his best and if I offer praise, it would tend to be along the lines of the exhibition of good sportsman in the face of defeat or trying his best.</p>

<p>^^^I agree in that the lesson of good sportsmanship is so important. As a parent, that honestly means more to me than winning or losing - being a gracious winner or loser is priceless.</p>

<p>I must say, I love the "sandwich" method of constructive criticism - and the "Panda Dad" label!</p>

<p>Regarding "gracious losing"...am I wrong to think crying after a loss is not good sportsmanship? I say this, because I think a public display can make the winner feel bad.</p>

<p>BTW, we are not the sportiest family (opted out of youth soccer very quickly), and all of this tournament etiquette is VERY new to me. Forgive me if some of my posts seem naive. They are.</p>

<p>One way to think of crying is that it's nature's way of relieving stress - that we ask people NOT to cry may be doing them a chemical disservice.</p>

<p>The heat of competition requires a certain adrenaline rush, extreme focus, and a lot of anticipation, followed by constantly critiquing and adjusting technique. Losing can cause an enormous cascade of emotion. </p>

<p>There are tears, and there's crying like a spoiled child. I don't watch X-factor but I did tune into the clips of the girl who cried after being eliminated by viewer votes and then exclaimed in an almost tantrum like voice, "Mom, you promised me" (which the publicist tried to "explain" later as being something other than it was) That? I don't like. </p>

<p>But kids who cry after losing I think it's normal and healthy to a certain extent. I don't think it's a sign of poor sportsmanship. It may simply be a sign of disappointment in one's own performance.</p>

<p>Am not disagreeing,but I can't picture Tom Brady crying in public after their recent Superbowl loss.</p>

<p>He was as always gracious complimenting NY.</p>