Character Developments that Stick

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
As parents and teachers, we continually provide feedback to the children in our care. When someone tries hard to perform a task or solve a problem, we might say, "Good work" or alternatively, "You're a good worker." Similarly, we may ask students to "help clean up" or "to be helpers." To an outside observer the phrases may have equal weight, relevance, and meaning. But for the students who process this feedback, there's a big difference.
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The research of Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler demonstrated that when character is praised, we internalize those qualities as part of our identities. And over time, when we hear that we possess certain characteristics from multiple sources, these qualities are more likely to manifest in our future actions. 

In my experience, children want to earn the identities of "hard workers" and "helpers" and are looking for others to see them in these and other positive ways. So next time there's an opportunity to call out a praiseworthy action, acknowledge the quality of the person that you want to nurture rather than the action itself. This slight difference in emphasis helps to develop virtues that could last a lifetime. 


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