Different Types of Praise - Parenting educator Dr. Rene Hackney describes the differences between evaluative and descriptive praise and the related impact on children.
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Host: What are some examples of each type of praise? Rene Hackney: Some examples of each types of praise would be let us say your child plays a piano song, they have practiced all week and they play you this lovely tune. Evaluative, what we are trying to steer clear off would be, What a pretty song. I really like that. It s not a horrible thing to say, but it focuses on the parent taking ownership and it is more extrinsic. So, a descriptive praise would be Wow, you worked on that song all week, you learned every note. I know what that song the minute you started. You are saying to that child look at how much effort you made, the effort, the process, the details that tends to be more descriptive. Let s say your child writes a story at school and draws a picture of the family and their teacher even noticed and wrote good work. When they come home, evaluative praise, Good job, I like this story and you hang it on the refrigerator which not it is not a horrible thing to say, but being more descriptive, Wow, you remembered our whole family in that picture, that must have taken a long time or There is five whole sentences in here, you really, really worked on that. I can see you remembered your capital letters in your periods. It is being more detail specific and talking about the effort the child actually made. It builds a sense of intrinsic motivation and they are much more likely to repeat that hard work again, because they know exactly what it was. You could even mention, Wow, I know your teacher noticed how hard you worked. It is taking that teacher s evaluative statement and putting it back into a descriptive tone. A child who goes to the bottom of the ring and gets a pool after a summer of being scared to go under, Wow, look at you, I am so proud, I am so happy you did that is really evaluative, but saying Look at you, you got that ring, you were so brave today, you went to the bottom of the pool. It lets them know the exact thing that you are cheering about, that you are really encouraging them on. Now, we get a lot of parents at this point who say, Yeah, that doesn't sound like praise. They want to put that good job on there, they want to there are folks who write about this, who say that parents who add the good job at the end, they are detracting from the descriptive statement they just gave. I don t find necessarily fault with that. I think it is fine for parents to say, You went to the bottom of the pool, you got that ring, you were brave, good job and just tack it on the end. But the idea is to be really very descriptive first. Give the child ownership of the behavior, describe back specifically what it was that they did, use specific labels that were helpful, thoughtful, brave, smart, kind, persistent, friendly, cooperative, all those things we want our children to be more of. So, the idea is you say, here is what you did, here is why it was so helpful. I think a lot of the praise with this descriptive too comes in the delivery. If you are standing on the side of the pool going, Wow, you got that, you went to the bottom of the pool, you were brave that is not so much. But if you say, Look at you, you got that ring, you went to the bottom of the pool, you were so brave your language is excited and you are showing them that you are proud of them, but all of it is giving ownership to the child.

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