Flappy Bird – Praising the child damages their ability to learn?

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Parents, legal guardians and educators alike feel the sting of theological and political backlash all too often. It seems every day somewhere in the world, there’s some sort of big breakout in education due to a massive event or influx of individuals and it’s always the child carers that take the brunt of the force when the chaotic cruise-liner fails to dock correctly and instead kills fragments of logic as the decking is torn up by a steel hull of fictitious and utterly fantastical fallacies.


The latest of these runaway steam boats is the concept that praising a child damages their ability to learn. Since when did offering a reward for doing well ever damage someone’s well-being? There are many examples to the contrary actually, where too little positive reinforcement (for instance, in the cases of child abuse or neglect victims) may actually lead to worsening spirals of insecurity and psychological issues.


In short, never receiving praise for work that you’ve put time and effort into can be pretty damaging for your self-esteem.



So why should we be using ‘Good Job’ or ‘Well Done’ to help a child improve their ability to learn? Well for once, it simply boosts the confidence that a child has and drives them to do the right thing. Although it is notable that some children may opt to work purely for praise and social recognition and this may have negative effects, scrapping the concept is no different from scrapping all surgery because occasionally there may be deaths in the surgical theatre. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the consequences.


So does this mechanism stop when one becomes an adult? The answer: it doesn’t. From the highest paying jobs to more extensive titles to that little coin dropping noise that is made whenever you pass a pipe in Flappy Bird, the answer is clear that a reward system in any part of one’s life is bound to make someone take part in an activity more. This is equally true in nature where dopamine is released in the brains of many animals (including humans) to act as a reward system when certain parameters are met, I’ll let you figure out what those parameters are yourself!


If you’re an experienced educator and love to see your students improve, perhaps have a look at SeekTeachers’ jobs page? We offer placements all around the world in institutions of all types!


[Source: New Hampshire Center for Effective Behavioral Interventions and Supports]