What Research Says

What Research Says

At Village Preschool our philosophy is based on current and developing research in the field of child development and early childhood education. Below are excerpts from and links to two articles supporting our emphasis on play-based education and supporting children’s development without praise or punishment.

Learning Through Play

kid at play

David Elkind is a child development  professor emeritus at Tufts University. His books include, The Hurried Child, Miseducation, All Grown Up and No Where to Go, and the Power of Play. He argues that play is not a luxury or a merely entertainment, but the principle way young children learn. This passage is an excerpt from an article found on the website Community Playthings.

“Self-created play for children is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, it is a basic mode of learning, and children have a need to play. Accordingly, we cannot really prevent children from engaging in such play. But we can limit the time and opportunities available for such activity. As I have argued here, that would be a mistake particularly for young children. Although it is counterintuitive, the more children learn from their own play when they are young, the better prepared they are to learn from academic instruction when they are older.”


Teaching without Judgment

Alphie Kohn is a renowned educator, and prolific author on the subject of unconditional parenting. His work complies evidence that both praising and punishing are harmful to a child’s emotional life and that parents and teachers should refrain from both praising and punishing. Instead, unconditional love and interest in the child’s work and play is the best way to encourage learning, positive self-esteem and healthy parent-child relationships.

The passage below is from Kohn’s article “5 Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job”. In this he argues that praising is as coercive as punishment and argues for parents and teachers to use less judgment in their interactions with young children, because both positive and negative judgment seek to control, and not to teach.

“It can seem strange, at least at first, to stop praising; it can feel as though you’re being chilly or withholding something. But that, it soon becomes clear, suggests that we praise more because we need to say it than because children need to hear it. Whenever that’s true, it’s time to rethink what we’re doing. What kids do need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. “Good job!” is conditional.

It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us. This point, you’ll notice, is very different from a criticism that some people offer to the effect that we give kids too much approval, or give it too easily. They recommend that we become more miserly with our praise and demand that kids “earn” it. But the real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.

So what’s the alternative? That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, “Good job!” isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, “Good job!” won’t help.”

“Five Reasons to Stop Saying ‘Good Job!'”, Young Children, September 2001