From Carol Dweck and her team, here’s research that shows that providing generic or trait-related praise to kids (“You are a good drawer”) is more likely to induce feelings and behaviors of helplessness when negative criticism about drawing is later received. Children who received more situation praise (“You did a good job drawing”), had fewer strong emotional feelings and were more likely to persist with drawing activities.
Yikes! This may catch a lot of us. When trying to foster positive self-esteem, it’s possible we may be discouraging resiliency.
I agree – specific rather than general praise is the most powerful kind. It’s much better to say “I like the way you did x..” especially if you are pointing out something they’ve made progress with. Schemes like Better Reading Partners use this theory to re-enforce children’s positive self image of themselves as learners. It’s interesting to see a quantitative study backing up something I’ve seen and used extensively.
As an aside of particular interest to Action Researchers the bloggers children were shocked:
that the teachers criticized the preschoolers’ artwork just to see what the effects of different praise were. They wondered whether the parents really knew what the study was going to be like – and they thought it was unethical!