Choosing Words Wisely

by Judy Mullican

“Wow! You are a great builder!” Ms. Tammy says as she looks at Josh’s complex block construction. No doubt Ms. Tammy means her words to be encouraging, and Josh probably enjoys hearing them. But research shows us that these words are not the most likely to lead Josh to develop persistence and a willingness to try challenging tasks. Ms. Tammy’s words can be termed people praise. That is, they focus on the type of person Josh is rather than his actions. In contrast, process praise focuses on a child’s actions and efforts. Using this type of praise, Ms. Tammy might say, “You worked on that building a long time, Josh. You balanced the blocks carefully so they didn’t fall. I think it’s the tallest one I have seen you build so far! Did it turn out the way you were hoping?” These words draw attention to Josh’s efforts and actions.

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