Praising The Process

The effects of praise on children can be very powerful. Words of encouragement and support can create self-confidence and resiliency, even when kids are faced with difficult challenges. Praise that recognizes a child’s choices and efforts can be even more powerful. It’s always nice to hear an enthusiastic “great job” but studies have shown that praising the process and not the outcome can inspire kids to keep trying. Giving children praise for their efforts and process is an important part of their overall wellness and resiliency.

Psychologist and Stanford University professor, Carol Dweck, has spent years studying the impact of praise on children. Dweck believes that how we praise children shapes how they approach personal challenges. According to Dweck, instead of having a “fixed mindset” where we praise innate qualities and talents, we should praise for work and effort to create a “growth mindset.” The “growth mindset” is associated with the development of self-value and resilience. Research findings consistently demonstrate recognizing the process, and not the fixed traits, helps kids embrace challenges and try harder to achieve success.  Praising the process allows kids to be more open to new experiences.

Summer camp is an ideal setting for taking on new experiences, developing new skills, learning from setbacks, and building resiliency. Campers regularly step outside of their comfort zone to achieve their personal best.  The camper that is afraid of heights, but sets out to make it to the top of the zip line. The camper who is fearful of the water, but works hard toward passing the deep-water test. And the camper who has never performed in front of an audience, but signs up for the camp play. All of these scenarios exemplify the drive and motivation campers have to set goals and achieve their personal best. Our camp staff is there every step of the way to encourage and support their journey.

The Iroquois Springs staff (aka… “Difference Makers”) plays an important role in praising the process to foster a healthy growth mindset.  Staff help campers embrace challenges and create a “can-do” attitude. Each step campers take toward their goals is met with positive encouragement and praise from camp counselors who provide specific and sincere feedback. There is less focus on the outcome and greater focus on the efforts.  Staff is trained to notice and validate the effort made. Counselors can be heard providing genuine feedback about a camper’s efforts such as, “you did a great job passing the ball to your teammates”, “I can see that you put a lot of thought into the colors you chose for your art project”, “your empathy toward your bunkmate to resolve a conflict was very helpful” and “the extra time spent memorizing your lines for the play really showed.” Counselors use attributes campers can control.  These specific acknowledgments help campers feel empowered, safe, valued, and more likely to deal with future challenges in a positive way.

Camp gives kids the tools to grow by giving them opportunities to persevere. By praising the process and hard work that goes into meeting personal goals, summer camp nurtures self-confidence, motivation, and the ability to learn from mistakes. Campers don’t let setbacks or failures define them. The most meaningful tasks involve setbacks, but persevering through them makes future successes so much more significant. There is no better feeling than achieving success when putting in the hard work and effort to get there.  Living in a camp community that provides social, emotional, and physical learning opportunities helps kids build the confidence and resiliency that will benefit them all year long. This strong foundation will help get them through life’s challenges.  

“Becoming is better than being” – Carol Dweck