Miss the point of praise

“Hey, nice job Fred.” So, in the music, we return to that FRED-VICTORY – measure D. Guess what happens?  Following that well placed-outstanding example of POSITIVE REINFORCEMNT, Fred performs measure D worse! Fred just received PRAISE for performing this difficult part in the music correctly. “Fred, what happened? I just gave you POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT; something us teachers are supposed to do and you just messed it up?” My high school musician, Fred, simply shrugs his shoulders.

Out of five classes a day, this happens at least once literally every day. EVERY DAY. Why? Why is it when teachers are encouraged to saturate our classes with roses and cut all the thorns off those stems that it seems to have the reverse outcome? When a human being gets encouragement / praise, production drops? Really? Well, unless of course, there is a dollar amount, then we work our booties off to get that raise. Bummer. I do wish that we would figure out a sure-fire way to teach intrinsic-praise, oppose to Pavlov conditioning of the human being. (Yes, I am sure there are wonderful programs to study / implement; in-service days are flooded with those cool studies)

This lack of positive response to positive reinforcement can drive one a bit nuts. “Mr. Everts, you need to give more positive reinforcement.” Cool. Why? You know, all you very well-respected-“doctor-folks”-far-more-educated-than-me, water can kill someone as well as help someone. Maybe we have been giving too much positive reinforcement in the same way of drinking too much water. I love this wonderful article by Jenny Anderson and encourage all of you who have contact with children to read this article. Just the first sentence would make hundreds-of-thousands mothers go nuts: It is well known that telling a kid she is smart is wading into seriously dangerous territory. If I told Mrs. High School Mom, “Your child is a short of being smart in this ONE part,” NOW-THAT STATEMENT IS DANGEROUS TERRITORY. Because, as we continue to drift away from what PSALM 23 and much of The Bible teaches those willing to learn: PEOPLE ARE STUPID, DIRTY, and DEFENSELSS (Steve Farrar), we will see a decline in humility – one of the most beautiful human traits. That human trait of humility can lead to better learning / better production, but these beautiful children have been told they are beautiful so often, they don’t recognize their “stupid moments, dirty moments (listen to their music; sure ‘dirty’ thoughts have been in music since the dawn of music, but MY HEAVENS!), defenseless.” We (their mentors) don’t teach our youth LOUDLY as we should those human traits.  I truly believe if we taught:  YOU  (youth) ARE STUPID, DIRTY and FRANKLY DEFENSELESS WHEN YOU ACT LIKE A BULLY that may help decrease bully (Bullying will not go away, BTW (another blog for another day)  No sane person enjoys being called stupid or dirty.

We used to be a nation that truly embraced the philosophy: PRAISE EFFORT – AWARD RESULTS. We are going to the AWARD EFFORT TERRITORY; I see this territory as the “Kids are being offered empty praise for just trying.” (from article) The children are hearing this “empty praise” as the award for a job well done. Really? Really? Well, because in part that is what “praise” has become: the AWARD.

I like John C. Maxwell A LOT!! His recent book: INTENTIONAL LIVING has a great description of STOP TRYING AND START DOING (Page 13).

“I’ll try my best.” This is a statement most of us have made at one time or another. It’s a way of saying, “I’ll work at having the right attitude and I’ll work at the task, but I won’t take responsibility for the outcome.” But is TRYING to do your best enough for a life of significance? Can we move from where we are to where we want to be just by trying?

Trying alone does not communicate true commitment. It’s half-hearted. It is not a pledge to do what’s necessary to achieve a goal. It’s another way of saying, “I’ll make an effort.” That’s not many steps away from, “I’ll go through the motions.” Trying rarely achieves anything significant.

We are definitely awarding effort which is in essence trying.

I could go on, but I always want to hopefully leave you with wanting to read an article. Read this article. Get what you can from the article to be a better person helping raise / train better people.



2 thoughts on “Miss the point of praise”

  1. While I agree that constant praise for efforts and participation trophies send the wrong message I also feel that no praise at all has it’s downside. It is human nature to want attention regardless of it being negative or positive. If a person wants attention and the only time they get it is when they do something wrong that is what they will do more often and vice versa. Eventually they may stop trying all together because they feel they can never do anything right so why bother trying. When giving praise it is important to be specific and not general. “I like the way you worked to solve that difficult math problem” is far better than “you are so smart”. Just my two cents…opinion.

  2. Thank you Laura. Much agreement with your comment. I do appreciate the analogy of water. Water has the ability to give life and take life. Too much water is not a good thing. So, we need to be aware of the praise we are giving and be AS YOU POINTED OUT specific in the praise. I do believe we have gone overboard with praising effort on an equal level of result. Thanks again.

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