Praising children comes naturally to most parents, but did you know that the type of praise you give makes a difference? It can have lasting effects on your child’s behaviors and thoughts.
Psychologists define categories of praise, including process praise and person praise. Process praise refers to the work, effort, and actions involved in an accomplishment. This type of praise suggests that there is the possibility for improvement through effort. Person praise is focused on the child him- or herself. It tends to suggest innate abilities and fixed capacities.
Very recent research from Stanford University and the University of Chicago looked at the patterns of praise given by parents, as well as the long-term effects on thoughts, problem-solving, and motivation. The research found that young children who were given more process praise (e.g., “you worked really hard!”) led to more positive approaches to challenges, better motivation to improve, and increased resilience. Children who received more person praise (e.g., “you’re a good boy!”) responded to challenges and failures with a perspective that outcomes could not be improved by increased effort.
When attempting to increase the amount of process praise you provide to children, think about being specific. “You worked hard to get that right!” gives far more information than “You’re so smart!”
Here are some examples of process praise:
- You worked so hard!
- I like how you’re thinking about your answer.
- You figured it out all by yourself!
- Nice trying!
- Wow, you’ve practiced so much, and now you can do it!
- You are drawing so carefully.
- You found a great way to do that.
For a full list — 101 ways, to be exact — see our post with more great examples.
Parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists, and friends all have opportunities to provide praise. By supporting children’s efforts and attempts, we have the ability to promote confidence and resilience, and develop a sense of motivation to learn, improve and succeed.
Kellie Bouren, M.A., CCC-SLP, Pediatric Speech and Language Pathology Department at the Center for Childhood Speech and Language Disorders