Sometimes very young children hold up a mirror and show us what we really think and want, deep inside. As we grow older, we learn not to need or expect some of those things – but that does not alter the basic desire – hidden away!
Last week a very, very little girl was in my class, being allowed to paint while her big sister had her lesson. She finished her picture and brought it to show me. Of course I clapped my hands and told her how beautiful it was. Her eyes were shining with joy. Then she asked ‘Does somebody else want to look at my picture?’ She wanted more praise, more acknowledgement, more recognition that her creation was appreciated! So we got other students to come and tell her and she drank it all up in great big gulps of happiness!
Once, with a group of two year olds, I did an experiment to see just how much recognition and appreciation a little child could take until they were full up! So Oli held up his painting and we clapped and he held it up again and again and we kept on clapping: it was two and a half minutes by the clock before he placed it on the table – satisfied!
Confidence builds ability. I don’t think anyone will argue with that. Praise and appreciation build confidence. Lack of recognition can breed resentment. Resentment can even result in a refusal to demonstrate ability. ‘She doesn’t care if I do it well or not, so why should I bother?’
There is a theory that too much praise makes someone big-headed. There are teachers and coaches who believe in pushing their students to try harder through heavy criticism. A very few might respond positively to such methods. They can see it as a challenge. The vast majority, however, will go the extra mile for the teacher who encourages, praises and believes in them. I am sure you can verify that from your own experience.
That does not mean that there is no room for constructive criticism. A person who feels they are doing well is usually much more open to looking at ways to do even better. In fact they will often suddenly tell you they want to improve something, quite of their own accord!
Often, as a parent, you can get distracted from praising one thing because you are really worried about another. Your child may have really untidy writing for example. He brings you his PERFECTLY spelled story. You are so concerned about the messiness that you fail to congratulate him on his spelling! He was so proud he got it all right and now he’s upset because all you do is go on about tidiness. So why should he try?
Just praise! Don’t be mean with it – really feel and express appreciation! You can also ask a child (I often do) what are you proud of in this? If they can’t find something, you can and you can tell them why it makes you proud. You are probably the most important person in your child’s life. Your praise really matters!
Is there anything about education that you’ve always wondered? If so then look no further than the Education Quizzes Knowledge Bank. It’s a collection of articles aimed at finding answers to the questions asked by parents. Whether you want to know about the different key stages or the various types of school, we have all the info you need. Not only that, we also have heaps of advice and tips on issues such as bullying, childhood friendships and online safety. It’s the place to go for the facts about parenting!
Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing.