By Bill Lucas
In October of last year when I was in Australia I wrote a piece for The Conversation headlined How to praise your child: why simply saying ‘well done’ is not helpful. I was astonished by its reception. Within a month it had been downloaded 40,000 times and it continues to be well-read. This interest made me reflect that, some of what we take for granted in parenting and parental engagement needs a fresh pair of eyes.
In this case it was the surprising idea that praising your child might not be a wholly good thing. For most parents such a thought is deeply counter-intuitive. We are biologically wired to want to encourage our children and saying ‘well done’ seems a simple way of doing this. But once we realise that general praise such as this does not help our child learn anything about what it was that she was doing that we want to encourage, we start to see how we can be more helpful if we are more specific. ‘Well done for not giving up and trying other ways of planning that essay’ is so much more informative than ‘well done’. Feedback like this is much more likely to develop capable, resilient children, too.