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Developing wellbeing - Part 1

In the not too distant past, there was a feeling amongst many people involved with young people that building self-esteem was hugely important, that making them feel special would mean they would like themselves, have more confidence and therefore perform better.

It became common place to protect children from disappointments, such as not being the best or coming first.  Parents, teachers and others began to praise children for every achievement, regardless of whether the achievement was the result of hard work, good fortune or natural talent.  Such comments included ‘you’re so good’, ‘you’re great at maths’ and ‘this is beautiful’.

The problem with this is multi-layered.  Children, after hearing the same comments repeatedly, stop believing it.  This is because praise connected to just surface appearance (the actual work itself) lacks an authenticity.  It lacks a connection to the person underneath or the behaviour that led to it (such as persistence, talent, luck).  It also means that pupils, protected from poor performances, lack the resilience and experience for later life when inevitably they will ‘fail’.  They don’t understand why they failed and what to do about it.

The world moves on.  The feeling now is that focusing on effort and other variables associated with achievement is much better at building self-esteem and enhances achievement.  Encouragement in place of praise appears to be a much stronger pedagogical evidence base upon which to build on.

Next week I will discuss what this might look like, in schools and at home.

Matthew Shroff
Director of Wellbeing

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