Recently I attended a workshop on giving praise. The presenter called today’s students “praise junkies.” Oh boy, did she get it right.
Today’s students’ brains react to praise the way addicts react to substances. They need it like they need food and water and air. They need it to feel ordinary!
Michael Casey put it another way when he wrote, “We can easily become dependent on the approval of others, so that our strongest motivation for doing something becomes our search for praise and approbation.”
As teachers we need to be careful how we use and state things in the classroom. When we place value on the way children do something – “I like the way you do ….” “You’ve made me happy because you did ….” I love the way you colored or sat or stood in line ….” – we encourage them to depend upon praise and approval.
Instead, we should make simple declarative statements (“You are sitting on a blue square!” “You are coloring with a green crayon!”). Such statements acknowledge what the children are doing but don’t add subjective praise.
The reason? It allows them to develop motivation from within.
It allows them to develop self esteem (instead of teacher-inflicted esteem).
It allows them to develop their own sense of right and wrong … and to learn to do something simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Because it’s the God thing to do.