Toddlers develop a greater preparedness for future challenges when their parents celebrate their efforts instead of their innate qualities.
To the tired ears of third party listeners, all praise that comes from the mouth of proud parents, be it "Good job!" or "Good girl!", sounds more or less the same. Children spend the first three years of their lives trying, failing at, and ultimately accomplishing all sorts of basic tasks, while their parents act as their extremely enthusiastic cheerleaders.
On average, according to researchers at Stanford and the University of Chicago, three percent of the things parents say to their young children are those high-voiced, ecstatic phrases like, "You're a big boy," "You're so smart," and "I like the way you covered your mouth."
But, the researchers point out, when parents say "good job," they're focusing on the child's actions, while saying "good boy" or "good girl" puts the praise on the individual. It's a subtle difference, but apparently toddlers can tell the difference.
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In a long term study, to be published in the journal Child Development, they videotaped diverse group of over 50 toddlers interacting with their parents at the ages of one, two, and three.