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Ria777's avatar

Don't praise or blame kids' work -- how did this get started?

Asked by Ria777 (2670points) June 25th, 2009

I came across (never mind how) a workbook for presenting Biblical stories to children. the workbook came out around ten years ago. it stated in no uncertain terms that you should only make statements along the lines of, “you use a lot of blue” or “you like to draw big pictures”, rather than saying you liked it. I know what as a kid, I felt very sensitive to condescension and to deprive children of praise seems intuitively wrong, if not cruel.

so who came up with this particular bit of social engineering and when? and for what stated rationale?

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14 Answers

Darwin's avatar

It has been around for a while, I believe. The idea is not to deny a child praise, but to use praise to enhance a child’s abilities. What you actually do is to praise the child’s willingness to work or to use their imagination or to accomplish some particular goal, not to simply praise anything they do indiscriminately.

In other words, don’t simply say “I like it” but instead say what you like about either the actual work or they way in which the child got to their stopping point. Say “I like the way you used the colors” or “I love how hard you have worked on this” to reinforce creativity or focusing on a task. You can even say that you love the fact that they made it for you, to reinforce doing for others.

If you say you like everything a child does, or you tell every child you like their work two things can result. One is that the child quickly realizes that you don’t really mean it and so loses interest in seeking your praise for that sort of accomplishment, or secondly, the child thinks that they are someone so special that they deserve special privileges (and when they find out later that they aren’t really a great artist they can get understandably a bit dismissive of your opinion).

What I do is say that I like something they have drawn especially because of the way they have used the colors, or added something original, or worked so carefully and hard on it. And then I hang it on the refrigerator.

Ria777's avatar

the instructions in the workbook specifically said not to (to use) your example, “I like the way you used the colors”.

rooeytoo's avatar

This sort of thinking just seems so strange to me and probably was the result of some government (taxpayers) multimillion dollar research project.

Why can’t reality determine the comment, like you know the sky is usually not green, I don’t think that stifles creativity, it points out a reality. And when someone does something good, compliment it and if they do something socially unacceptable, point that out as well.

A lot of people were raised that way for a lot of years and seem to survive it okay.

MissAusten's avatar

That kind of extremism is a bit silly to me. I always praise my kids when they’ve earned it. They certainly know when they’ve done something wrong as well.

Since the example given was for artwork, what I try to do is what I’d want someone to do if I showed them a drawing I’d done. I point out what I like, ask questions about it, etc. Even if it’s a scribble done by a toddler, just saying something like, “Tell me about what you drew” will bring on the funniest things. I love the stories my kids make up around their drawings!

Anyway, the only thing I would say to seriously avoid is an empty compliment. Don’t praise a kid for something he or she doesn’t deserve praise for or hasn’t earned because then it doesn’t mean anything. Kids can pick up on that kind of insincerity.

Darwin's avatar

@rooeytoo – Teachers who insist on telling a child that the sky is not usually green are stifling creativity. From personal experience, I despise folks who try to tell kids what and how to draw. Reality can determine the content in that you can say that the child worked hard on their picture or that you like the way he drew the horse, but don’t try to tell a child that the sky isn’t green in reality so it can’t be green in their imagination.

cak's avatar

A sky can look an ugly shade of green before a tornado! I know, I’ve gone through one.

Anyway, the way that Darwin explained the statements, is how that is used in a constructive manner. I’m wondering if the person (or people) that contributed to that workbook just didn’t clarify the directions, enough. The thing is, though, you can decide that a set of directions like those are not constructive and they can be tweaked to a point where they are more constructive. Also, consider the fact that it was written 10 years ago. Things change.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Darwin – I haven’t so far met a kid who could create a sky like that but I really sort of meant like leaf green. And I speak from personal experience, my mom told me that my leaf green skies were okay but not really spot on. And if I drew a horse that didn’t look like a horse, she would tell me to go back and practice some more. Now here I am at 64, reasonably sane, reasonably creative, still learning and still striving, so it couldn’t have been too bad a thing.

I think overly structured life style stifles creativity and self expression a lot more than having reality pointed out.

Just my opinion

MissAusten's avatar

@rooeytoo How old were you when your mom gave this constructive criticism? I always think of these things in terms of my own kids, who are still young. I used to draw a lot, and I know that by the time I was in junior high/high school my mom would critique my drawings instead of just fawning over them. It’s funny that you mention horses—I just had a conversation with my 10 year old the other day about that. She was complaining about a picture she drew of a horse that didn’t look “right” to her. We got out a horse book and compared those horses to her drawing. She ran right off to try again, and was so happy with herself when she saw the improvement.

rooeytoo's avatar

@MissAusten – Wow, long time ago, but in my recollection my mom was always like that. She always took the time to look at what I had done and she was always honest. She taught me and my 2 brothers to knit and sew and color in the lines and what colors generally went where. As I said, it doesn’t seem to have had any deleterious effects that I can see.

Darwin's avatar

The problem comes when the “horse” or the sky (or in my case the squirrel) does look right to the child but the adult steps in and says it isn’t. Art is a way to express the imagination. It doesn’t have to copy the real world. Look at the work of this guy for example.

rooeytoo's avatar

Blue black night sky, yellow stars, looks like reality to me!

I don’t know DArwin, to compare kids scribbling to abstract art is a bit of a stretch, to me anyhow!

Darwin's avatar

When he painted it he was attacked as being a lousy artist.

My point is, don’t stifle a potential Van Gogh by being a pedant. Not every child will be an artist, but some will and so you should not attempt to destroy their spirit especially if they are happy with their work.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Darwin – this is one of those hopeless debates, so far you have said nothing to sway my thinking and obviously vice versa. Actually I am not trying to sway you, I am just pointing out that pendant to you is reality to me. I will continue to tell the kids I teach that skies are not green and if I destroy the spirit of a budding Van Gogh, I guess the spark of genius was not that strong to begin with.

Darwin's avatar

I was asked to draw a squirrel when I was in art class in second grade. Mind you, this was art class, not science, not nature, not anatomy.

Everyone else in the class drew a small brown animal with a bushy tail. I drew a backyard with a brown streak running through it. The teacher did not give me a passing grade because she claimed I did not draw a squirrel. In fact, I did draw a squirrel but chose to express it in terms of the great speed squirrels exhibit as they dash across the lawn.

She was being a pedant. I still resent her efforts to make me “conform” to her view that all art must be photographic. Fortunately, my parents viewed her grading method as being unfair and took it up with the school.

If a child draws the sky as being green in art class, let them. It does no harm and may encourage their creativity. However, if as an adult with authority you try to quash that spark, it could very well be if not destroyed, at least dimmed or delayed.

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