Tag Archives: Bravery

Propel Yourself Forward with Self Praise

If you’ve ever taught kids you probably already know that one of the best ways to improve learning is through the consistent application of honest praise. I remember once I was teaching my friends kid how to answer riddles correctly, that is remember the goofy answer that she could use to then go and tell her friends. I decided to do a little experiment. While I read her the riddle, I would completely ignore the incorrect answers as much as possible. I wouldn’t say “no,” nor would I make any facial expressions that indicated her answer was unacceptable. Completely neutral. Whenever she gave the “correct” answer, I made sure to smile, say “good job!” and give her a good feeling. I noticed when I did this, she learned rather quickly.

Then later that afternoon, I tried the same experiment with another kid. He was about the same age, and belonged to another extended family member. It was my friends’ grandmothers eightieth birthday, so there were lots of extended families there that weekend. Anyways, when I taught the other kid the same set of riddles, I altered my ‘experiment’ just a little bit. I gave slightly less enthusiastic praise when he gave the ‘correct’ answer, and just as strong negative reinforcement when he gave the incorrect answer. It seemed to take him much longer to learn the same set of simple riddles.

Now I have no idea what kind of child psychological things were going on, or if this proves that girls are smarter than boys, or perhaps even that girl really liked riddles and the boy thought they were really lame. Personally, what I believe it shows is that positive reinforcement can much more power over negative reinforcement.

It was Napoleon who said that “Men will die for ribbons.”  Meaning that even in battle, men will risk their lives to be given the most positive praise imaginable (for some anyways.) Praise in front of their peers, in the form of medals in reward for bravery on the battlefield. If you’re a guy, it’s hard to imagine anything more fantastic than being given public praise for bravery in fighting down an enemy. (Other than an unlimited supply of money and string free sex, but that’s another blog post.) 

One thing though, that I’ve surprised that I haven’t read more of it, is the power of self praise. I mean honest, direct, self appreciation. If you have something you want to do, and it’s a bit of a struggle, why not tell yourself, “good job?”  You don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror, and give yourself a thumbs up and shout “Good Job!” although that would probably feel pretty good if you could get over the weirdness of it. But what happens when you do something really nice for yourself, and when you enjoy it, tell yourself you are rewarding yourself for a job well done?

And furthermore, what happens if, whenever you get a wrong answer, instead of beating yourself up, just ignore the mistake and keep plugging away?

You might just be surprised at how much more effective you become at getting the things you want in life.