Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Praise Versus Encouragement: Montessori Preschool Students Developing Independence and Confidence

NAMC montessori preschool praise versus encouragement developing independence confidencePraise Versus Encouragement
Let’s take a look at the implications of using praise versus encouragement. A few years ago, I was approached by a parent who requested a meeting with me after school. We sat down together and I could tell she was clearly angry about something. I remember the conversation vividly and it began with the mother saying, “I am feeling angry because Larissa tells me that you don’t like her artwork. She comes home daily telling me that you don’t like what she creates and this is very upsetting for her!”

I was definitely taken aback but quickly had to gather my thoughts to provide an explanation. The little girl was new to the preschool and almost five years old. She was a lovely child, full of spirit and creativity but was constantly looking for recognition and complimentary feedback. What was happening in the classroom is simple. Every time Larissa completed a creative project, she would approach me and ask, “how do you like it?” I would always reply with an encouraging phrase instead of direct praise by saying something like, “you really worked hard on your picture. Are you proud of your drawing?” or, “Wow, look at all the colors you used.”

I explained to the mother my views on praise versus encouragement but because I didn't respond by saying, “I love your picture or what a beautiful drawing”, Larissa felt I didn't like her art work. It took several months before Larissa started to feel that internal sense of satisfaction and no longer felt the need to ask me or the other Montessori teachers if we liked her work.

Praise Versus Encouragement: Montessori Preschool Students Developing Independence and Confidence

Giving a child continual praise can make it difficult for the student to feel a sense of self satisfaction and can put pressure on the student to live up to someone else’s standards instead of simply taking pride in doing their best. Statements like the following can inhibit children from gaining independence because they are constantly wanting praise from others, in particular, those in authority positions.

Praise Statements:
  • “I am so proud of you for coloring in the lines.”
  • “You are always such a good boy.”
  • “You deserve a reward for cleaning up so well.”
Encouragement on the other hand is empowering and fosters an intrinsic feeling of self satisfaction. Encouragement helps the student to judge their own work and their own behavior without seeking adult approval. Encouragement is honest, unconditional, and promotes a feeling of self worth.

Encouraging Statements:
  • “You worked so hard sweeping the floor.”
  • “That was a difficult puzzle but you didn't give up.”
  • “Are you proud of your drawing? You spent a long time on it.”
Near the end of the year, Larissa’s mom gave me a beautiful thank-you card and told me that after our discussion she did a lot of research on praise versus encouragement and has been making a diligent effort to avoid over-using praise at home. She couldn't believe how much stronger and more confident Larissa is and feels so grateful to have learned how to empower her at a young age.

Related NAMC blogs:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, October 20, 2010.


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