I admit it, my desk and fridge at some point, has been filled with my daughters’ drawings that I had no idea what they were. Some of them, I even thought were not that good or even my daughters hadn’t made much of an effort. The same happened with a number of “achievements” and my approach to praising them. Was I encouraging them, not pushing them enough or openly lying to them?
Eventually something clicked and I learnt the basics for praise and positive reinforcement. I have used them a lot with my daughters and the children I coach.
Let’s start from the beginning. Praise and positive reinforcement when done incorrectly or overused could result in confusion or a false sense of achievement. Most children know when their work is worth it. Over praising (ie. praising just for anything they do) can lead the children into either not believing what we are saying or into a comfort zone from which the children will not want to leave. This can reduce their confidence to attempt new things in the fear that they might not receive the praise.
Praise and positive reinforcement when done correctly and at the right time, can have a tremendous effect in creating confident and innovative kids.
How to do it? There are two parts. First part is to focus on the effort made, second part is how to give them feedback.
When praising the child, focus on the effort and the work completed rather than the outcome. The picture might be nice (or not) but spending 30 minutes concentrating and working on something is priceless learning.
The outcome, (the drawing, the music played on the piano, etc.) is almost secondary. It is a result of the skills applied (creativeness, focus, concentration, persistence, desire, etc).
The second part is about giving them feedback on the specific work, this is the “3 diamond and 1 star” approach
After praising the effort and skills applied (whichever it was), ask your child to think on what 3 things he/she has done that deserves a Diamond and what 1 thing deserves a Star. Diamonds are the things they are most proud of from their work. The star is for something they like but know they could do better on. Finally ask them, “how will you make your Star a Diamond next time?”.
Three important tips; firstly, remember the ratio 3:1 to generate motivation. Secondly, ensure they always talk about their Diamonds first. Finally, let them come up with the solutions but feel free to suggest others that complement what they say whilst respecting their ideas.
Final tip, remember them for next time and tell them before they go onto doing something new.