Mind in the Making suggests that we praise a child’s “effort and strategies, not his or her personality.” It occurred to me recently that I praise Ev’s personality a lot and not so much his effort. Naturally, I think he is one of the smartest and cutest 2-year-olds I have ever come in contact with, which is saying something since I work in early childhood. Telling him how cute and smart I think he is just pops out of my mouth every time he says or does something cute or smart.
Then I started thinking about what I do say when Ev has met a challenge, whether he is struggling or working it out. If he is doing something seemingly dangerous, like climbing up into his chair at dinner, I tell him to be careful and eventually try to help. This actually takes a lot of effort on Ev’s part and I really should be praising that. When Ev is struggling with something, like putting a puzzle back together, I offer suggestions and then praise him when he is finished, or when we are finished if it takes my help.
I want to make a conscious effort to be more intentional in the way I comment on Ev’s accomplishments (and failures), so there are a few things I want to work on.
I will be more specific when giving Ev praise, for example, “Wow, Ev you just made that tower stand all by itself.”
I will work on asking questions to extend Ev’s thinking even further when he says something brilliant, like when he told his dad and I that birds live in nests with eggs. Instead of making googly eyes at my husband because I was so impressed, I could ask Ev where he might find a nest or what is in an egg.
I will also trust Ev more and in his abilities. When he is doing something that makes me worried he might get hurt, I will resist jumping in. I will make sure I am very close and available to kiss any boo-boos and give some tender loving care, but allow Ev to make some mistakes and take a stumble or two.
Lastly, I will work hard to decrease the amount of times I tell him he is cute and smart. I can’t promise that I will completely stop doing that because I know that’s a promise I’ll break. Because he just is so cute and smart.