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Motivating Children: The Power of Praising Effort and Setting Achievable Goals

In the realm of education and child development, motivation plays a pivotal role in shaping a child's approach to learning and their perception of ability. While traditional measures of success often emphasize outcomes and grades, recent insights into psychology and education stress the importance of focusing on effort and the process of learning. This shift towards valuing effort over results and setting realistic goals can profoundly impact a child's motivation, resilience, and overall growth mindset.


The Importance of Praising Effort

Praising effort rather than just outcomes encourages children to value hard work, perseverance, and improvement. This approach fosters a growth mindset, a concept popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck, which posits that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. When children understand that effort leads to improvement, they are more likely to embrace challenges, persist through difficulties, and view failures as opportunities to learn and grow.

Practical Ways to Encourage Effort

  • Recognize Progress: Acknowledge improvements, no matter how small, to show that progress is valued over perfection.
  • Value Hard Work: Use specific praise that highlights the hard work and strategies used, rather than innate talent or intelligence.
  • Encourage Reflection: Ask children what they learned from an experience or how they might approach a problem differently next time, reinforcing the idea that effort leads to learning.


Setting Realistic Goals

Goal setting is a powerful tool that can help children navigate their academic journey with a sense of purpose and direction. However, the key to effective goal setting lies in ensuring that the goals are realistic, achievable, and aligned with the child's interests and capabilities.

Guidelines for Setting Achievable Goals

  • Involve the Child in the Process: Allowing children a say in their goal-setting process empowers them and ensures the goals are meaningful to them.
  • Break Down Large Goals: Large goals can be overwhelming. Breaking them down into smaller, manageable tasks can help children see progress and stay motivated.
  • Celebrate Milestones: Recognizing and celebrating when goals or parts of them are achieved reinforces the value of their efforts and keeps motivation high.


Overcoming Challenges

Adopting this approach to motivation does not come without its challenges. Shifting focus from results to effort may initially meet with resistance in a society where grades and outcomes are heavily emphasized. Additionally, finding the balance between setting challenging yet achievable goals requires understanding each child's unique strengths and limitations.

How To Overcome Challenges

  • Persistence and Patience: Change takes time, and fostering a growth mindset is a gradual process.
  • Open Communication: Regular discussions about goals, efforts, and learning strategies can help children internalize the value of this approach.
  • Seeking Support: Sometimes, external support from teachers, counselors, or child development specialists can provide additional strategies and insights.


Motivating children by praising their effort and guiding them in setting realistic goals lays the foundation for lifelong learning and personal growth. This approach not only enhances academic performance but also builds character, resilience, and a positive attitude towards challenges. By focusing on the journey of learning and valuing hard work, parents and educators can help children develop into motivated, confident, and persistent individuals ready to navigate the complexities of life with a growth mindset.

Related to: For Parents  For Students  Study Tips