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by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer
Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2006
Review by Julia Hui and Anthony R Dickinson. on Sep 26th 2006

Praising Girls Well

To the reader who might have thought that praising another person was easy work, and often simply satisfied by saying "Well Done!" or "Very Good", here is a book which might change such views. Indeed, Hartley-Brewer tells us that being able to appropriately praise one's children and/or students is absolutely a subtle art. Furthermore, one's advice may well become unhelpful, unwelcome, or even produce negative results, if praise be overused, or used in inappropriate ways. Aimed at parents and teachers concerned with children of all ages, this book certainly provides the reader with a series of useful, child-centered advice and good-practice, and may be especially welcomed by first-time parents and/or novice teachers in search of initial text/tips on this subject.

Although we do not fully agree with all of the views expressed, including the selection of some of the specific examples and tips introduced in this book, there are many reasons to take its content seriously. For example, Hartley-Brewer manages to cover her chosen areas quite well, correctly (in our view) suggesting that there are significant age ranges and gender differential factors to be considered when praising our children/students. Moreover, the author reminds the reader how praise might be delivered in a variety of effective ways, and not only to rely upon the use of words, but also to include postural and gestural approaches. Hartley-Brewer also includes a wide variety of exemplar quotes provided by parents, teachers, school principals, daughters and students, giving the reviewers the feeling that this book is not simply about listening to a series of short lectures being delivered by the author, but instead attempting to connect the reader with the primary sources being quoted.

Particularly welcome was the way Hartley-Brewer chose to end her book, linking the earlier chapters in her last, "Praise and You", reminding one of the old Chinese saying, "In order to beat people, one should win over oneself first!" Pertinent to both parents and teachers alike, it would appear important to realize that, if one does not readily believe in, and/or appreciate, praise for oneself, how can one expect to be able to then act as a convincing parent or teacher, honestly giving encouragements to one's daughter/students by using praise effectively?

Looking a little more critically, there are perhaps comparatively too few tips/advice for teachers, relative to those provided for parents in this book, and it may be that Hartley-Brewer thinks that girls spend more of their time with their mothers at home, rather than with their teachers in school? Indeed, this book is perhaps not really helpful in inspiring teachers to praise their students per se, but teachers certainly will benefit in that they may develop better communications with their student's parents (as a result of reading both of the tips sections) and thereafter be able to provide better advice to parents concerning how to further encourage their daughters by their more effective use of praise! Further to this gender-specificity issue, it is noteworthy that some 90% of the text also appears in the 'boys' version of this book, (and we could not help feeling that the Praising Boys Well volume was perhaps written from the point of view of helping fathers coming to a better understanding, and thus better handling of, their sons). This issue is raised by the reviewers here in cautioning the reader against expecting two very different books -- but such should not be taken to detract from the usefulness of either book taken alone.

Definitely not an academic, research-based laden book, this volume is nonetheless one that we would recommend to be picked up, read and put alongside other welcome additions to the bookshelf. This is a good first book for parents, and anyone else working in the field of education wishing to boost their children/students' self-esteem, confidence and personal potential, through the use of effective praise.


2006 Julia Hui and Tony Dickinson


Julia Hui and Dr. Tony Dickinson, PIC (Asia), Hong Kong, September, 2006.