Praise the Effort, Not the Achievement
“It must make you so proud,” a friend says, “to have such smart children!”
Then they marvel at the medals and honors. They swoon over the songs they sing, the medals at storytelling and dancing, the podium finishes at soccer…
I look at my boys and see the uneasy squirming. We’ve seldom praised them as such. So having their achievements trumped up makes them uncomfortable.
“Yes, they are,” I usually reply. “You know what really makes me proud? They always try to do their best. They never give up. You can count on them to finish what they started, to always keep their promises, and to be the best they can be.”
Whether it be a nice-meaning grandparent, a loving aunt, a close friend, or a polite stranger, such praise of achievements make me cringe. Please do not praise the achievement, praise the effort. Achievements are past. Efforts make sure that when problems or obstacles come, they have the mind-set to overcome and achieve.
But yes, I am really proud of my smart boys. Just don’t tell them I said it.