Psychologist Angela Duckworth and her research team did a series of experiments in which they observed and measured how different types of praise had a positive or negative effect on a child’s motivation and resilience in tackling difficult challenges. What they found was that the children who received “process praise” (i.e. praising the things within the child’s control: hard work, perseverance, diligence, strategies, focus, etc) were more likely to develop a resilient approach towards difficult challenges later in life.
In one study they evaluated the type of praise mothers gave their young children. Duckworth then followed those children’s progress and checked in with them five years later. They found that the type of praise children were given as toddlers had a huge impact on their attitude towards facing challenges later on in life. The children who received process praise when they were young were more motivated learners and ended up doing better in math and reading compared to their peers who were praised for their talent or innate abilities.
As coaches and teachers, the principle of process praise is powerful as we try to help our team’s develop a toughness that will enable them to deal with the inevitable challenges of life. When we make it clear to our teams that a commitment to the process is the only key to success, we are giving them the tools to be successful both on the court and in life. By praising the process we are implicitly preaching the gospel of hard work, diligence, and focus as the antidote to the challenges that we all face.
Begin today to help your team develop the mental toughness it needs to push through the ups and downs both on the basketball court and in life. Praise the process and watch your team attack the challenges in front of them with tenacity!
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