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Learn the Two-Step for Praising Kids

Being mindful of these two simple steps can transform praise into a powerful tool for student growth.

image:Student feeling good about himself.

There’s a lot of talk about the best way to praise and encourage kids. Whether we’re expressing amazement over tying shoelaces, constructing thesis statements, or applying complex mathematical principles, the guiding factor for issuing praise should be the same- avoid blanket statements. The utterance of an overall Good job! or Well done! can bring a smile but does little to build that growth mindset that students need for tackling the next challenge. As the person on the receiving end, you’re often left wondering What was good about it?

When you assign a blanket statement, it's like pulling a blanket over the chance for growth. Praise phrase recipients have no direction for future endeavors aside from replicating the exact same steps to receive another Good job! With no clarification on what components were done well, kids can start to trudge along at the same pace to play it safe. By pinpointing a specific skill or strategy and recognizing effort, there is an opportunity to highlight what’s working and open discussion for the next step. Mindshift’s message about preschoolers and praise rings true for all ages, effort and action lead to success, and kids will begin to understand that setbacks can be overcome when action is taken.

As a teacher and parent will I be removing the phrases Good job! and Well done! from my vocabulary? Absolutely not. Will I be more cognizant of expanding on the skill, strategy, and/or effort that went into that job well done? Absolutely! Praise is imperative, and its delivery should be deliberate. If you focus on the Two-Step for Praising Kids, you’ll still get the smile, but an understanding of the efforts and hard work behind executing skills and strategies will also result.

The Simple Two-Step for Praising Kids

  1. Be specific in naming the skill or strategy.
  2. Acknowledge the effort.

Examples beyond "Good job!"

  • (1) Excellent organizational structure for your lab report.
    (2) I can tell you really put a lot of thought into how to best represent your findings.
  • (1) You’ve mastered the tricky double knot when tying your laces!
    (2) All that time you spent trying really made a big difference.
  • (1) The inclusion of quotes and images in your essay really brings the reader back to the Civil Rights Era.
    (2) Your research efforts and information gathering made quite an impact.
  • (1) You came off the line quickly and were perfectly positioned to receive the ball.
    (2) Running all those drills in practice made that touchdown possible!
  • (1) The use of different mediums in one piece creates a lot of interest and appeal for your audience.
    (2) The time spent crafting all these intricate details was well worth it!

A simple glance at the substance behind the Two-Step Transformation column makes the visual argument for doing the two-step when it comes to praise. Whether you’re a teacher, coach, or parent, highlighting the skills and strategies that work and acknowledging the effort behind them needs to become the norm when it comes to praise. Implementing the Two-Step for Praising Kids will have everyone singing your praises!

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

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