The power of praise
When was the last time someone offered you praise for something you had done, the way you looked the effort you had put in to something? How did it make you feel?
I have found the power of praise when working with children to be phenomenal.
They are no different to you or I. We all like our achievements/ our efforts to be acknowledged. It makes us feel good about ourselves. Praise/ acknowledgement inspires us to try again. Praise motivates us to try and better ourselves. If it is never acknowledged we start to give up. We start to wonder, what is the point?
Everyone learns at different paces.
Therefore, it is important to remember that for some people a tiny step forward is huge progress and it needs to be acknowledged. So many of the children I work with are the lower achieving children who rarely get 10 out 10 in their weekly spelling/ times tables tests. They’re not the ones whose handwriting stands out as “calligraphy”. These are the children who don’t get the certificates/ stickers/ rewards for producing a beautiful piece of work. Those are given instead, to their peers.
These children often lack confidence in their abilities and been told that they haven’t earned their pen licence yet just becomes another failure to add to their list of failures.
Life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
As a tutor it is so important to recognise the small steps that are achieved. Offer praise and rewards for effort as well as results.
If last week they only managed to get one thing right but this week they managed two things, or remembered something that they had learned last week praise this.
Show genuine enthusiasm for what they have done. Offer a genuine smile and praise that success.
There are so many words you can use to offer praise:
Good job (a young 5-year-old autistic lad I work with says this to me a lot and it always makes me smile).
The more the child is offered genuine praise for what they have achieved the more their confidence will start to grow.
In contrast to before; the more their confidence grows the happier they will be to have a go. The more they have a go, the more practice they will get. More practice leads to them getting better. And suddenly the self-fulfilling prophecy is spiralling towards positivity and the child’s own success.
I am also a big believer of incorporating games into learning as we can again use these to measure a child’s success and offer the required praise.
When a child is low in confidence, participation is far more of an effort.
Why do we want to do something that we are likely to fail at?
However, if it is concealed in a game the enthusiasm to participate is much more likely to shine through. If a child has low self-esteem and confidence, I believe it is often a good idea to manipulate the game so that the child wins (I know a lot of people will disagree with this view point). By allowing the child to win, you can offer them the much-needed praise which will help grow their confidence.
The feeling of beating your educator is also one which will boost their confidence greatly.
I have seen children from 5 to 16 flourish after a couple of weeks of well deserved praise. Starting from a place where they will succeed and growing from there. Moving at a pace that is suitable to their speed of learning.
How much does the child you’re working with need to gain confidence as well as knowledge? Think about how celebrating the small steps with a word of praise could completely change their abilities and attitude to the work you are doing with them.
If you’re reading this as a parent wondering what you can do: I strongly believe the most important thing you can do as a parent is to tell your child you love them and that no matter what the final result is, as long as they tried their hardest, you will always be proud of them.
Written by Dawn Strachan founder of Clara James Tutoring. Dawn’s tutoring style and the business she has grown has largely been influenced by her background. Working with both dyslexic and autistic children has made her realise that learning needs to be a positive, creative and varied experience. Everyone learns differently and that needs to be embraced. No matter how we learn though, we all respond well to praise.