Do’s and Don’ts of Praising Your Students

July 9, 2014

It's important for martial arts instructors to praise students with specific feedback.

Showering children with praise can be harmful if it doesn’t focus on their efforts. Psychology Today indicated recognizing kids for just being themselves without specific feedback on how they perform or accomplish tasks can be counterproductive. It’s best to minimize generalized praise and focus on constructive comments. For martial arts classes, that means coaches should tell patients exactly what they did well, not just a generic act of recognition. Phrases of “good job” or “way to go” don’t highlight exactly what students did well. It starts to lose its meaning. They may not realize what doing well entails.

Certain phrases are more productive than others

The type of praise children receive plays a role in their attitudes toward obstacles later in their lives, according to The University of Chicago’s Child Development’s “Parent Praise to 1- to 3-Year-Olds Predicts Children’s Motivational Frameworks 5 Years Later” report. The researchers at the University of Chicago and Stanford University referred to phrases such as “You’re doing a really great job,” as “process praise.” This highlights children’s actions, not their innate qualities. Phrases like “You’re so smart,” are considered “person praise.” They only focus on who they are, not how they are doing in a certain area or how hard they are working.

Praises should be realistic and specific

Psychology Today recommended parents, coaches and teachers only praise if the tone is reality-based and if it’s earned. Perhaps martial arts students mastered a skill that took them weeks to fully grasp. This moment warrants some praise, directly oriented on how the student worked hard to reach this accomplishment. The phrase should also be specific so children fully understand what they did well and how they can continue to do so in the future. Be sure to use these moments of praise sporadically. If martial arts students receive recognition all the time, it will sound like white noise.

How Praise Benefits Children

Martial arts instructors should praise students so they have a realistic idea of their strengths and weakness. It’s important to know where they stand and which areas they need to improve upon. This helps children develop healthy self-esteem and prepares them for obstacles they can encounter later on in their lives. News Observer indicated it’s best to find a healthy medium between praising and giving students opportunities to make mistakes without inducing negative phrases. With a balance, children will learn self-value and believe in themselves and their abilities.

News Observer recommended individuals emphasize the importance of children doing their best. Even if they don’t do it perfectly, they tried and gave it their all. It’s important to make that distinction. By doing so, they develop a sense of pride when they try their best.

Martial arts instructors can employ effective praise techniques

Psychology Today recommended giving students your undivided attention. Be sure they know you’re listening. This is helpful for martial arts students because it tells them you value their perspectives. Children are being heard, which is an effective motivator.

Aside from listening, questioning is also effective. Martial arts instructors could ask students “how they figured out how to master their skills.” This strategy helps children reflect on how they conquered the skill. These healthy phrases of praise will help children develop self-confidence and understand their strengths and weaknesses.