Here again, the principle of « good praise » is discussed again How to talk so kids will listen…, in Chapter 5 on praise.
The key is to not draw the conclusion for the child – even worse a vague conclusion (« great! ») – but to allow him to build himself around factual comments. He will then build on the positive to progress. It will be his choice to develop or not something that we perceive in him, and to translate his own perception into action.
When the child wins the self-confidence he deserves, he will even be able to face negative comments – « They can say whatever they want, I know better. »
On the other hand, let’s not forget to note that unjustified compliments will invalidate justified ones.
So, and this is important as well, it is not useful, and downright counterproductive, to praise when the child is not satisfied.
« My drawing sucks… »
-No! « it’s great! »
Well, if he finds it sucks, the fact that we say it’s great won’t change his mind, it might rather teach him that our « great » doesn’t mean anything (so he won’t fall for it next time), and it does not help him to progress.
You’d better answer:
« Oh, you don’t like it? »
– No, it’s ugly
– you did the arms like this (not an opinion)
– Yes, arms are fine, but the legs are too long!
– so, it’s the legs that you don’t like?
– Yes, and also, I find that the eyes are wrong
– I see. »
And probably once he gets the opportunity to analyze what he doesn’t like, he will try it again with shorter legs and eyes that suit him!
This shift in our reaction is called « descriptive praise vs. evaluative praise »
I find this video clearly explains the difference: