Sunday, August 2, 2009
"I LOVE it!"
"This is the best picture I've ever seen!"
"You're the best artist in the class!"
"You worked hard on this for a very long time!"
"I noticed that you used red paint in one hand and yellow paint in another hand, and painted with both at the same time. And in the middle, I saw that the red and the yellow mixed together to make a new color!"
"When you were drawing, you looked like you were thinking very hard, and then when you were finished, you looked very happy!"
"What can you tell me about your picture? I'd like to hear all about it."
"You used two pairs of scissors at the same time when you were cutting that paper! That seems like an interesting idea. How did that feel?"
"I can see a lot of colors and a lot of shapes in this picture."
"You had a smile on your face the whole time you were drawing this picture. Can you tell me what you were thinking and feeling?"
Which type of comment gives a toddler more information about themselves and their skills?
When parents and teachers are busy and distracted, we offer the first type: "Awesome!" Even though they gush enthusiasm, these comments require no thought at all. We can make these statements without any observation or personal engagement with the child. It's easy. It's also useless. What can a toddler learn about their emerging identity and blossoming skills from "Amazing!"? Especially when every child in the class gets the same comment from Teacher, or when Mom always says every picture I paint is "Awesome!"?
When adults take time to be truly engaged, and to observe children's creative process in detail, we can provide them with information that will assist them in their development. When we tell them that we noticed they worked hard on the project, they learn that they are a person who can stick to a task. When we point out unique ways that they use tools, they learn that they are a person with creative ideas. When we ask them open-ended questions about their work, it teaches them that their ideas are of value to others. Gradually, these respectful interactions can accumulate in a child's experience, and result in positive self-esteem, as well as creative and critical thinking skills. And think about the higher-level language skills that are being modeled, as well!
Like most other positive parenting/teaching skills, offering genuine feedback to children takes practice. Maybe thinking of it this way will help: if an adult friend asked you for feedback on a project that was important to them, you wouldn't say "It's terrific!" without even thinking, would you? You would take the time to really look at the work and give genuinely helpful feedback. It's simply the respectful thing to do. Children deserve at least this much effort from us.
Let's take the time to be engaged with our children's creative work, and give them the genuine and respectful feedback they need.