If getting your child to start working on their homework feels as hard as pushing a car on handbrake, you are not alone.
Sometimes you just wish there is an “on-off” button that you can press so that you can just kick your slippers and slouch on the couch after a long day at work while your little one presses on till he/she is done with her task.
Unfortunately, there is no such button, but there is, one special formula which you can adopt.
Praise them. No, not the usual “Good job”, “Well done”, “Good boy” which you have been using consistently. But “Good effort”, “So diligent!”, “Good perseverance!”.
As reported in numerous studies, children whose parents praise their effort and diligence are actually more open to taking on challenges, are better at problem-solving and are more likely to believe they could improve themselves by working hard. Of course, they are also more motivated in completing their tasks.
In one of the studies, the research team videotaped 53 children and their parents during everyday interactions at home. Each family was videotaped three times, when children were 1, 2 and 3 years old. From the videotapes, the scholars identified instances in which parents praised their children and classified their praises accordingly.
Researchers then followed up with the children five years later, assessed whether they preferred challenging versus easy tasks, were able to generate strategies for overcoming setbacks, and if they believed that intelligence and personality are traits can be developed (rather than being fixed).
The results demonstrate that praises that emphasise children’s effort, actions and strategies actually predicted children’s attitudes toward challenges and their beliefs about trait malleability five years on.
So, quit the “Good girl”, start the “Good effort” immediately.
In fact, this is an easier method because children being children, they don’t always do things as you would have expected. So instead of reluctantly saying “Wow nice drawing!” yet feeling like you have completely betrayed your judgement, focus on the effort and say instead, “Wow, you must have taken a long time for this! Such persistence! Well done! For your next work, you can try to use more colours instead of just black, I’m sure that can make it even better.”
Yes, it’s long, it’s in fact, very detailed. This kind of specific constructive feedback tells your child what exactly needs to be improved on so they know what to look out for the next time they try it. And of course, if they know how to improve on it, they will look forward to working on it as soon as possible.
Try it! Focus on the effort, and give specific constructive feedback on how to make the next one better.