Postive Problem Solving


Try Asking: "What do you understand?"

One of the most difficult questions a student has to answer after hearing a lesson is: ``What don't you understand?'' Students dread this question, and many learn to never admit they're confused.

If students knew what they didn't comprehend, they wouldn't be lost. They can form coherent questions only if they understand the whole lesson.

The solution is to ask instead, ``What did you understand?'' The student gets a positive start on the problem by telling you what he or she knows. The tutor can sort out the areas that have caused the student not to understand.

Use Encouragement To Motivate

You have the opportunity to praise the work of your students, and this will give them recognition for a job well done. This is a comment that focuses on the student. You can say, ``You are so organized.'' The tutor can also motivate the student through encouragement by saying, ``Your essay showed great organization. Each idea was clearly developed.''




Dictionary Definition

1. To express favorable judgment of

2. To glorify, especially by attribution of perfection

3. An expression of approval

1.To inspire with courage

2. To spur on: stimulate


The doer; “Good Girl.”

The deed; “Good job.”


Only complete, perfect product; “You did it right.”

Effort and improvement: “You gave it your best.” Or, “How do you feel about what you accomplished?”


Patronizing, manipulative:

“I like the way Suzie is sitting.”

Respectful, appreciative: “Who can show me how we should be sitting now?”

“I” message

Judgmental: “I like the way you did that.”

Self-directing: “I appreciate your cooperation.”

Used most often with

Children: “You’re such a good girl.”

Adults: “Thanks for helping.”


“I’m proud of you for getting an A” (Robs person of ownership of own achievement.)

“That A reflects your hard work.” (Recognizes ownership and responsibility for effort.)


Children to change for others.  

“Approval junkies”

Children to change for themselves.

“Inner direction.”

Locus of control

External: “What do others think?”

Internal: “What do I think?”


What to think. Dependence on the evaluation of others.

How to think. Self–evaluation.


Conformity. “You did it right.”

Understanding. “What do you think/learn/feel?”

Effect on sense of worth

Feel worthwhile when others approve

Feel worthwhile without the approval of others

Long-term effect

Dependence of others

Self-confidence, self-reliance.

Other examples of the difference between praise and encouragement:


Praise: "You're a great writer."                                                                                                          Encouragement: "This story is great. Your characters are so real."

Praise: "You are super. You always get  right."                                                                             Encouragement: "Your hard work on solving word problems really shows."