“All those ‘Good jobs!’ might be undermining kids’ independence and self-confidence.” P. L. Underwood, The New York Times, Aug. 13, 2020
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Are You Overpraising Your Child? By Paul L. Underwood, The New York Times, Aug. 13, 2020
“I love it!” It’s a phrase I’ve uttered countless times, typically in response to a new offering from our family’s artist-in-residence, also known as my 6-year-old daughter. I’m being honest — it’s a treat when she dedicates her work to me, rather than the parent with higher approval ratings (her mother, my wife), and I take a fatherly pride in her choice of colors and attention to detail. But it turns out, I’m also undermining her efforts, by putting myself, and my approval, at the center of the conversation.
It seems like the right thing to say. After all, how many times have we parents been told that it’s better to pre-emptively praise (and reward) the behavior we want our children to demonstrate, rather than waiting to condemn them for misbehaving.
But, as leading researcher Wendy S. Grolnick, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., puts it, praise also has a dark side.
This is because praising the outcome (‘It’s beautiful!’) or the person (‘You’re so smart!’) encourages the child to focus on those things…As part of the self-esteem movement in the 1970s, parents were often told to give their children positive feedback along the lines of ‘Great job’ or ‘You’re so smart.’
This was in contrast to the more removed and discipline-oriented parenting styles of earlier generations, and was intended to be warmer and healthier…Instead, consider simply describing what you observed your child doing, along with a neutral expression of delight: ‘Wow! You dug a big hole in the sandbox with your truck!’ This reinforces the behavior (and communicates that you’re paying attention) without setting an unrealistic standard.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Too much praise for a child can be harmful.
- It’s a treat when my 3-year-old dedicates her work to me.
- I’m also undermining her efforts, by putting my approval, at the center of the conversation.
- We want our children to demonstrate good behavior.
- Some children might feel She might feel performance anxiety.
- They might become more motivated by a parent’s pleasure than by the process that led to it.
- Understand your child’s reasons for engaging in a task.
- Students revealed frustration with praise that undermined their sense of agency.
- It can be tempting to praise a child’s achievement by casually comparing her with others.
- This type of praise can foster an unnecessary sense of competition.
Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
“When presented/present with an/a new range of puzzles, children/child in the second group was/were far likelier to choose/chose a more challenging problem. Dr. Dweck also find/found that these child/children said their/they enjoyed solving problems/problem more then/than those in the first group, and/an the researchers concluded they did/done so because they have/had confidence in their abilities.”
Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “…praise also has a dark side. This is because praising the outcome (It’s beautiful!) or the person (You’re so smart!) encourages the child to focus on those things.”
- Her research showed that children felt pressured to live up to their parents’ praise, and this in turn could lead to panic and anxiety.
- “If your child is working on a drawing, for example, you don’t need to comment on every color selection. Wait until the end, when your child shows you the drawing, and then say something like, “Ooh, I see you chose to put the purple next to the brown — that’s so interesting!”
- “One of those values is autonomy, so it’s helpful to praise what your child has control over, such as the choices they made along the way of solving a problem or drawing a picture. This helps keep expectations realistic.”
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- When you were young did your parents praise you a lot?
- If you have children, do you praise them often?
- According to Dr, Grolnick, what are some dark sides to praise?
- What suggestions are provided on how to praise your child?
- According to the research in the 90s, how did certain types of praise affect children?
- What was the outcomes when children were praised on their efforts, instead of their selves?
- Why is it a bad idea to praise your child by comparing them to others?
- What is ‘praise addiction’?
- List three new ideas that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Share your responses with your class.