Book Review: Praising Girls Well (Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer)

This book, subtitled "100 tips for parents and teachers", caught my eye in the library the other day as being practical and divided into easy-to-digest sections, on a topic that interests me - my daughter.

I'd just been reading about boys and realised that even though I have some idea what my two sons are like, my daughter remains a mystery to me. Children raised even in the same household are different, with their own personalities, preferences, and learning styles. Birth order affects kids too. And to top it all off, girls and boys are definitely different - anyone who doesn't think so should try being a parent :-)

Praising Girls Well is broken into 10 chapters. Each chapter has ten tips for encouraging girls. There is slight overlap in the tips, but this serves to reinforce concepts and also to look at praise from different angles. 10 of the tips are also directed at parents.

I learnt a lot from this book. It's impossible to condense all the tips down, but here's a few interesting tidbits that stood out for me:

  • ban the word good - this was a good point for me, as I have caught myself using good more for "Good, you did what I asked" as opposed to "Great job!"
  • watch out for I - praise should focus more on the child than on the parent (instead of "I like the way...", try "You handled that really well")
  • focus on the achievement, not on her (instead of "You're so wonderful!", try "That was terrific, what you managed to do")
  • don't take credit for her success
  • praise the process, not the product, acknowledging when she tries hard, shows determination and interest
One tip that generated a bit of discussion between Olivia and I was "Unblock your blocks to giving praise", which talked about justifications for not giving praise, such as that it could make a girl "bigheaded", that praise should only be for something excellent, that if something could be better it shouldn't be praised, or that the parents helped create the success by paying for tuition (for example). Olivia and I had an interesting conversation about our own attitudes towards being praised and motivations for giving praise.

This book was helpful in terms of ideas for constructive praise which I know will free my beautiful daughter Maya to grow into herself without manipulation. It included useful definitions of different forms of praise (for instance, admiration, attention, approval, and more). Ages and stages of growing girls were identified. I'd recommend it to Dads like me that are still learning about their daughters.

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