We live in a world that values achievement. Constantly looking at the end result and whether it “scores high”, or adds value, we ignore the process that brought the result. If the result is good we offer praise and reward, suggesting that the process was worthwhile. If the result was poor we either ignore it or throw it away, regarding the process as a waste of time. If this is the method we use to encourage our children, what does this do to their confidence? Stephen Grosz, psychoanalyst and Professor at College London, writes that praise for academic performance and end results might counter-intuitively cause a child to under-perform. Positive praise adds to the pressure to perform, while criticism for negative results is diminishing (link to previous article). He cites Charlotte Stiglitz, a remedial teacher who explains that she values presence over praise when it comes to setting children up for future success. This means being intentional about encouraging children along the way, observing what they’re doing, showing a genuine interest, asking questions and sharing what you have learnt from them. Children will inevitably experience “failure”, but if they’ve been encouraged and reassured along the way, they’ll see that the process taught them valuable lessons and feel confident enough to try again. After all, was it not Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of the world, who said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If Edison purely focused on the end results of his efforts, he would not have persevered in his work and we would not have the light bulb. If we only focus on the end results of our children’s efforts, they will not be encouraged to persevere. But if we remain present and consistently support them they will keep trying. This means they will keep learning and growing, which ultimately sets them up for success. Whether you’re a parent, an educator, or both, practice being present with the children in your sphere of influence. This does not mean you need to be with them all the time, it simply means that, when you are, you’re intentional about assuring them in their work and play. Consistently remind them that they have what it takes, love them and help them to see that “failure” is actually a learning opportunity. This will surely help them along their journey to success.

Philile 2005/011533/08
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