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Personal Best Karate

The Encouragement Trap and How to Avoid It

Posted: May 17, 2019

By Master Christopher Rappold

Encouragement is a wonderful thing.  Hey, we all need a little from time to time.  Especially when you are hitting a challenge or feeling like the world is temporality stacked against you.  The little pat on the back you need may be the spark that can get you firing again on all cylinders.  

But can encouragement be taken to an extreme and be done to the detriment of your child’s growth and desire to excel.  According to Stanford University Law Professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D., the answer is yes.  She says, “Doling out generic praise based on superficial attributes such as intelligence, athletic ability and good looks can establish a fixed mindset in children.   This will limit their motivation for growth to a certain point. “     

Thus is the dilemma, we want to encourage our children but we don’t want to limit motivation.  So how can you get all the benefits of encouragement without any of the drawbacks?  As it turns out, the answer lies in the execution of the encouragement.  As the study points out it is generic praise that can be the demise.  So the way around this is to be sure your praise is focused on a specific observable behavior.   

Here are a few examples –

  • Instead of praising your child for having good looks (which they inherited from you) turn your praise to how they take great care to always looking their best before they head off to school (their effort)
  • Instead of praising your child for scoring in the top of her class on the presidential fitness test, save your words unless they have been training and exerting effort to improve their standing (their effort)
  • Instead of complimenting your child on “being a good student”, save your compliments for a time when he was showing great dedication and responsibility to study on his own.

Be aware that every child is different being made up of different wants, needs and potential.  What and when you choose to compliment one child may be to fundamental for another, but what is universal in all of us and what will spark your child’s desire for growth will always be the sincere and truthful acknowledgement of accomplishment earned through time and sweat.    

If you would like to have your child try our award-winning character based martial arts program that will reinforce family value and teach mental and physical skills to ensure they are safe, please go to the registration page to sign up today. I promise you that our team of highly-skilled martial arts teachers and mentors will make you and your family feel right at home.