Earned praise versus phony praise

Learn about: Earned praise versus phony praise from Edwin A. Locke, PhD,...
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Earned praise versus phony praise

Many child wants to know what a child should be praised for. This is a tricky question. Certainly children need praise, but you can ruin it if you do it for the wrong thing in the wrong way. First of all, only do it for something that merits it, not for simply existing. Don't praise them for trivial things. "Gee, you put your shoes in the closet today. You are the most amazing and fantastic person I know." It comes across as totally phony. Praise them for achievements for which they put in hard work. "Gosh, you took your math grade from 62 all the way to 80 in two months. I know how hard you worked at that." This is very important, "I hope you are proud of yourself." In religion, pride is a sin; but not in my philosophy. Earned pride is good because it's fuel for your life. It's fuel for your future. It encourages you to keep trying and improving in yourself. I believe in earned pride, not narcissistic pride or meaningless pride. Now, this becomes an issue. Suppose your child is intelligent. There are studies-- I'm not sure if they have been replicated -- that if you praise your child for being intelligent, that when confronted by a difficult task, they will give up. Why? Because the child says, "Okay. I'm intelligent, but I can't do this right away; so, obviously I don't have intelligence. I'm going to quit." Praise your child for trying, but also for results. Effort and intelligence doesn't get them an A in the real world, but you can praise them for trying enough to improve themselves. Be very careful. You can say, "I see you have an exceptional mind and you are really coordinated, but I want you to use that to improve yourself." Don't overdo praise. Don't let your child's teacher deal out reams of phony praise. The kids get cynical. They can read through that. All these prizes are junk. Take it to the teacher if they try that. Make praise special, not something that happens every five minutes.

Learn about: Earned praise versus phony praise from Edwin A. Locke, PhD,...


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Edwin A. Locke, PhD

Psychologist & Author

Edwin A. Locke, PhD, is Dean's Professor (Emeritus) of Leadership and Motivation at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his BA from Harvard in 1960 and his PhD in Industrial Psychology from Cornell University in 1964.He has published over 300 chapters, notes and articles in professional journals, on such subjects as work motivation, job satisfaction, incentives, and the philosophy of science. He is also the author or editor of 12 books, including The Selfish Path to Romance: How to Love with Passion and Reason, Study Methods and Study Motivation, Goal Setting: A Motivational Technique That Works, A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance, Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior, The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators  and Postmodernism and Management: Pros, Cons and the Alternative. He is internationally known for his research on goal setting. A recent survey found that Locke's goal setting theory (developed with G. Latham) was ranked #1 in importance among 73 management theories. His work has been supported by numerous research grants, and he has served as consultant to research firms and private businesses.Dr. Locke has been elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the Academy of Management, and has been a consulting editor for leading journals. He was a winner of the Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Award at the University of Maryland, the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Career Contribution Award from the Academy of Management (Human Resource Division), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (Organizational Behavior Division), and the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science. He has been a writer and lecturer for the Ayn Rand Institute and is interested in the application of the philosophy of Objectivism to behavioral sciences.

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