Not all praise is created equal

I read this article Good Boy: There’s a Better Way to Praise Your Kids – it is a good read for all parents, especially parents of toddlers.   It is a study that follows mother-child interactions over the course of five years and to see how parental praise impacts a child’s development.

The study clearly shows that the kind of praise children receive affects their attitudes later in life, particularly that that praise with feedback helped children cope with difficult situations better than compliments.  The article also goes on to say “Praising the efforts, actions and work of the kid is going to be more beneficial in their long-term persistence and [desire] to be challenged and work hard in the future.”

They referred to this as “process praise” which includes comments such as “You worked really hard” or “You’re doing a great job,” which emphasize the child’s actions. “Person praise”, or what I call compliments, includes comments like “You’re so smart” or “You’re so good,” which focus on a child’s inherent qualities.

Another revelation from the study involved how we tend to praise boys and girls differently.  In the study parents gave boys and girls the same amount of praise, but boys received 24% process praise, while girls received only 10% of this type. The inequality could have consequences for how girls evaluate their abilities as they progress in school and may play a role in some of the self-esteem issues that become more common among teens and adolescents.

Coming up up down South where girls are bred to be thin, pretty, and preferably quiet I find this particularly interesting.  Little Southern Belles in training are frequently praised for their God-given or plastic surgeon purchased looks but, aside from their ability to plan a lovely party, are rarely praised for the traits we find so praise worthy in men.  On the contrary, we are often faulted for having some of the same traits.  A man is driven, a lady is “overly aggressive”.

I was just half-joking with a female colleague a few days ago about this very thing.  Why we wondered is a man described with words such as assertive, self-started, motivated, and “driven” when a lady with the same traits is not considered a lady at all but rather a witch spelled with a capital B?

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