Saturday, February 18, 2012

    I attended a cheerleading competition today.  Little girls from pre-school through high school competed with teams from around the state.  It was exciting, fun, and entertaining.  It was also educational.  The educational piece, for me, came in the relationship between the type and frequency of praise bestowed upon the members of the team and the team’s attitude, pleasure in performing, and success.  As I watched the teams take to the floor, I also watched their coaches.  
    I watched a pair of coaches hug each member prior to competition, smile at them, tell them that they were going to be great, and to have fun.  The team went out and looked like they really enjoyed themselves.  They were a pleasure to watch and they did great.  When they were finished, the coaches jumped up, ran to them, arms open and smiles on their faces, congratulating them for doing the best they had ever done. Team members and coaches ran out of the auditorium, chattering about what fun that had been.
    In contrast, another coach sternly reminded the girls that they needed to do their best, yelled to them from across the room to smile, motioned throughout their performance to any member who was not doing something right.  When the competition was over, the team quietly left the floor. Without a word, the coach turned her back and the team quietly followed her out of the auditorium.
    Which team do you think did better at the end of the day?  Which girls are having a healthier experience?  Which girls are being empowered to do their best and to enjoy what they do, to feel good about themselves and their accomplishments? It is obvious that the team with the positive attitude, with the praise-bestowing coaches did far better than the team with the stern, all business coach.  When awards were handed out, another team took first prize, and the positive attitude team ran to them to congratulate them, following their coaches’ lead who walked over and shook hands with the winning coaches, congratulating them.  The negative attitude team sat sullenly, complaining to each other that they should have gotten better scores.  Their coach frowned at the winners and told her team that if they had tried harder they would have done better.
    Praise and a positive attitude will win out every time.
    Planning to write about praise today, I was surprised to see a friend’s post Are Our Children Overpraised? | Child Mind Institute (  If you are interested in the research on praise, take a look at the website.

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