The right kind of praise can inspire children to have courage to take risks, overcome obstacles and become positive leaders. Consider how you feel when someone says, “I noticed how hard you’ve been working“  or “I have faith that you will complete this challenging task.“ Educators and parents have the opportunity to support our children in this manner using language that is rich in descriptive, appreciative and empowering types of encouragement.

Rabbi Sacks noted, “Praise and how we administer it is a fundamental element in leadership of any kind. Recognizing the good in people and saying so, we help bring people’s potential to fruition. Praising their efforts rather than their innate gifts helps encourage growth.“ (www.rabbisacks.org/metsorah-5774-praise/)

Educational approaches by Dr. Jane Nelsen, “Positive Discipline,“  and Dr. Daniel Seigel, “Mindsight,“ point out how children greatly benefit from daily doses of encouragement. Rather than motivation using stickers or trips to the treasure box, or evaluative praise such as “You are the best,“ encouragement has long-term benefits, such as intrinsic motivation. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset,“ found when students learn that their effort, rather than innate intelligence, is valued, they develop a “growth mindset,“ linked to perseverance and academic success.

Employing a positive approach to teaching and learning by encouraging children throughout the day, appreciating them for who they are and noticing their effort can make a critical difference socially, emotionally and academically. Providing a home and school environment that focuses on positive forms of encouragement allows for all people to thrive.

Tammy Keces, M.A. is the Principal and Lead Secular Educator at Irvine Hebrew Day School. She is also a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer. Published in Jlife 2014.