Praise is Overrated
Pam Consear submitted a comment on the earlier post “Tips for instructors who teach martial arts to kids,” but instead of approving it, I held it in the queue till I could set it up as a new topic. Here it is– and I hope others will have things to say on this important subject.
I agree with all the comments about keeping things positive, using all the kids’ names, working out and enjoying practicing alongside them, etc. I’d like to make a comment about PRAISE, though.
We should make sure that the praise we’re giving is thoughtful and specific, not just habitual. I think that some of our kids these days get showered with too much praise (and trophies, medals, awards…) for just showing up, and the words eventually lose their value.
According to research I’ve read about child development and teaching, praise doesn’t build self-esteem (assuming that’s one of our goals here), but skill mastery DOES. So we can help by pointing out specifically WHAT they are doing well (“good job raising your knee up for that snap kick!”), and being gently honest when they’re not doing something right, and telling them how to fix it. Not everything kids do in class is a “great job!” (Not in my classes, anyway!)
Research has also found that telling kids they’re “smart” or “talented” or “gifted”, etc., can actually be counter-productive. It causes some kids to either not try new things for fear of not being as amazing as everyone thinks they are, or to give up quickly if they don’t catch on immediately for fear that people might find out that they’re not actually smart/talented/gifted after all. More useful is to focus on the EFFORT they’re putting in, and point out how that is leading to progress and new skills. Everyone has the ability to try hard, so the kids start seeing success as something attainable through hard work, and not the birthright of a few “talented” kids.
Ok, that’s my two cents about keeping the praise real!
Any thoughts, readers?