Praise ‘Effort,’ Not Accomplisments

I’ve been praising my kids’ “effort” and I’ve avoided saying “Good job!” lately, having read good research showing that children do better and achieve more when they concentrate on putting forth great effort in the things they do—in school, sports, and other endeavors—and that over-praising kids when they put forth lackluster effort can actually hinder their future accomplishments.

The idea is, for example, if your child exerts great effort when swinging a baseball bat—but doesn’t connect with the ball—you might praise their effort and they’ll come out swinging again next time.  But if they put forth little effort at all, and yet still manage to hit the ball, then praising them for that does little long-term good; in fact, it can backfire and cause kids to under-perform.

I recently watched a YouTube video of Ben Revere, outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, making an amazing dive-for-it catch up against the far fence.  The ball seemed out of reach, but he leaped with tremendous effort and snagged the ball in his mitt.  He then sprung to his feet and hurled the ball for a successful double play.  (See http://www.YouTube.com; type in, “Ben Revere Catch of the Year.”)

I replayed it for my son who’s on a baseball team for little guys.  “This is what great effort looks like,” I told him.  “If something really matters to you, you’ll give it your best effort—like Ben Revere did when he caught this ball.”

Teach your child the concept of exerting ‘great effort’ and how effort is more valuable than temporary successes that’s earned with little or no effort.  By exerting effort, you explain, people do just about everything better.  Next, find a real-life example and share it with them.  And keep up the great effort yourself, dad!

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