I just wrote a post on positive mind-sets after reading this article in the New York Times and it is so provocative that I still can’t stop thinking about it and all the implications.
But it gets tricky when you change a couple of words to be more positive because we also know that praise can ultimately make children and adults less motivated rather than more motivated.
So now we just need to tease out the differences since we know the power of just one single word. And really, this difference is big enough that if you take notice and change what you say starting today, you will make a huge difference in your child’s life.
So let’s start at the base level and move up from there:
Praise consist of adjectives: beautiful, smart, great, wonderful, perfect, fast, pretty, etc.
Positive mind-set consists of verbs: run, sing, draw, breathe, play, swim, jump, dance, write, and so on.
Let’s go back to the article and look at one of the adult examples which I believe is so fascinating. They worked with a bunch of housekeepers who said that they didn’t have enough time to get in good exercise and be healthy. So they took some of them and told them how many calories each task burned (vacuuming burns this many calories, making beds burns that many) and without changing anything else in their lives, the housekeepers who had a different mind-set lost weight.
Now they just acknowledged the action of the housekeepers which is what made them healthier. They didn’t try to change the mindset by saying, “You are thin!” But they did change the mind-set by saying, “Your work burns calories”.
Children are the same: you can change their whole outlook by acknowledging their actions. However, you can also kill their motivation by praising them.
Let’s break it down another way:
If you say: “Oh, look at you- you look soo pretty!” (Which by the way, you should never say for so many reasons, so if you do, stop right now! (Adjective= praise)
Change it to: “Oh look at you- did you pick out your clothes all by yourself?” (Action= positive mind-set)
If you say: “What a beautiful picture!” (Adjective= praise)
Change it to: “You chose to draw with so many colors!” (Action= positive mind-set)
Another article I read that really resonated with me was from Hands Free Mama titled Six Words You Should Say Today which is specifically about kids and sports but can be used with school work, arts, or any activity and is perfect for steering away from praise and towards positive mind-set.
The six words are: “I love to watch you (fill in the action)”.
It is that simple. Just acknowledging the action and that it makes you smile.
No more praise. No more adjectives. Acknowledge the action and watch how your kids change.