Monday, July 29, 2013

Praise Your Child No Matter What?

The Idea of Constant Praise 

We have long passed the motto of 'suck it up' into an age where everyone gets an award. As parents we are told to praise their every actions, even their fails, as a success. To turn everything into a praise worthy, 'you are awesome' moment. It is often termed as the Power of Praise. Even sport competitions have gotten on the band wagon with everyone getting a trophy, no matter how much effort was actually put into it.

Why Parents do it

As parents, we do this because we love our kids and don't want their feeling hurt. It is heart breaking to see a child cross their arms looking down with teary eyes thinking that they just aren't any good. We worry about their self-esteem; that this could somehow impair their future success. We want to do something! So at a first glance this constant praise and every body wins mentality just seems like such a great idea to help shape a generation of loving, confident citizens.

So, is it actually working? Are our kids better off by smothering them with praise with their every action?

What Psychologist & Researchers Say:

The Bad

In a study presented by the AAAS found that high self-esteem doesn't produce higher grades. However, when a child got good grades it did slightly boost a child's self-esteem. It also found that having high self-assurance doesn't help prevent drinking and smoking but increase the chances. Researchers suggest that instead of focusing on self-esteem to help raise grades, that an emphasis on improving self-control or other methods need to be applied.

Another study has found that undeserved praise can increase anxiety in students over whether someone might find out that it was in fact undeserved. On the opposite side, they have also found that if the student internalize the praise they then tend see no room for improvement there for decreases the amount of effort a student puts into their work.

Student who also predicted that they would do perform better on tests were more likely to feel depressed if they didn't meet their expectations.

Donald Forsyth, at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that students who regularly received self-esteem boosting praise got worse test scores on their finals than those who were told to study harder. 

Robert Hogan, wrote in the Harvard Business Review, that it wasn't high self-esteem that made a good leaders, it was humility.

Self esteem doesn't have a strong link with success, studies show the groups with a constant high level of self-esteem are prison inmates.

The Good

Students with high morale are more likely to bounce back faster from negative life events.

Women and girls are less likely to suffer from an eating disorder.

What should we be doing instead

The goal should be to aim for a medium level of self-esteem.

Concentrate on self control and self-discipline

Studies have shown that short bouts of exercise helped increase high brain functions including self-control.

Researches found that self control makes the difference between someone being successful or going to prison.

According to a NPR report, "The children who struggled with self-control as preschoolers were three times as likely to have problems as young adults. They were more prone to have a criminal record; more likely to be poor or have financial problems; and they were more likely to be single parents." While this study didn't prove that having high self control can prevent this, it did find a high correlation.

Resources/Recommended Reading:

The Effects of Praise on Children's Intrinsic Motivation: A Review and Synthesis Feeling Good and Grades

Undeserved Compliments May Harm Kid's Self-Esteem

The Lowdown on High Self-Esteem

Short Bouts of Exercise Boost Self-Esteem

For Kids. Self-Control Factors Into Future Success

Friday, July 19, 2013

Do's & Don'ts of Early Language Development

So what really works to help boost language development? The do's and don't might surprise you.

  • Avoid trying to expose language through TV (especially cartoons) or audio. Yes, this includes Baby Einstein and other similar 'learning programs'. Children learn language through watching lips move in live interactions. So when it comes to language development your kids would get more out of watching the news than any cartoon. 

  • Independent studies show that programs such as Your Baby Can Read and other educational DVD's and flash cards don't actually work. Even when a baby seems to 'know' a word it is actually done through memorization and not by understanding that the individual letters make up a sound and that when placed together form a word.

  • Don't use overly simplified phrases (telegraph speak aka telegraphic speech) such as. "Baby ball? You ball" instead of 'Do you want the ball?'


  • Talk to the child's doctor. Bring up your concerns on the next appointment. He will help steer you in the right direction and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

  • Have your child take the necessary hearing tests. This first one should have been taken before the baby left the hospital and the next at 4 years old (if your 4-year-old doesn't cooperate, don't worry it happens a lot and the tests are redone at 5 and 6 years old).

  • Read to your child regularly.

  • Exposure to language should be live and in person.

  • Narrate what your child is doing. Instead of trying to direct you child's attention try naming what your child is already looking at or playing with. Providing a type of running commentary of what your child is doing will help your child make the connection between what she is doing with words.

  • Use baby talk, also called 'motherese', when talking to your baby. It will help him/her pay attention and learn which words and phrases in particular are important.

Resources and Recommendations:

Speech and Language Development Milestones (has a checklist for language development in children)

Language-Building Tips for Parents 

Early Language Development FAQ

Fact or Fiction? The Top 10 Assumptions About Early Speech and Language Development