Learning at home... Rethinking Praise...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yesterday my son, on the way to school, was talking about a boy in his class and my son made the statement that “M* in my class is really smart”. Interesting my son doesn’t use the word “smart” but I asked him “what makes M* smart?” and my son replied, “because he says he is. Oh and he can do his times tables really fast.”

I took a deep breath as I realised what my son lacks is the belief in himself . He is popular, friendly has a great sense of humour and doesn’t have a bad self esteem or lack confidence but – he doesn’t believe in himself. I have done everything I have been told to do, praise him when he does something good, encourage his strengths, commend him when he is proud of something he has made or wants to show me, but what I have not seen, until now, is how this has limited his overall belief in himself.

Perhaps it is not enough to stay focused on what my child can do and rather I should be broadening the scope of praise. Obviously this other child’s parent’s have their child believing that he is smart while my son knows what his limitations are and despite his capability - will this limit his overall expectations of himself? I don’t think he is going to be able to expect more of himself if I cannot get him to believe he “can” in all things.

In my attempts to make my son ‘well rounded’ and wanting to motivate my child in areas that aren’t quite his natural ability- does this make him feel stupid? Does this make him feel inferior?

I was touched by this quote, found on a friend’s page yesterday and given the discussion I had had with my son earlier in the day it seemed to all make sense. ‎"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."-Albert Einstein.

So, I’ll be changing the way I speak to my son for a while and perhaps permanently – I will start to praise him for who he is, I will find words that give him more ‘power’. I’m starting to think that perhaps individual praise for only certain things is too limiting. Should we be praising the ‘whole’ child? Perhaps praising is incorrect- perhaps it should just be believing in what you want to see and allowing them (our children) the opportunity to believe it too.

Imagination and language are powerful human resources. May these resources not be limited by our capacities to believe in ourselves.

2 comments:

Little Billies said...

Eleanor, I found this post to be soo interesting! Our son is clever but despite our praise and encouragement he still does not believe in himself. He is very capable, but I believe that it his is personality type that makes him doubt himself, to second guess and to not truly have a go or put himself out there, until he proves to himself that he can do it ---- regardless of how much praise and encouragement his father and I give him.

Parent with Potential said...

I've realised I have had to go back to basics. Yes, personality can affect children's beliefs in themselves and self esteem can be affected by expectations based on previous experiences. Now when my son says, "I can't do that" or "I don't know my times tables" and such. It's about gently challenging their statements and building on what they know already. Ask specifically, "what don't you know or which ones can you do?" Can I see ....? Can I hear you say them....? and then build on from there and point out positives and congratulate them on what they do know or previous strengths or past times when he has thought this and can it be 'proved' different.

 
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