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‘Good Job Brushing Your Teeth!’ Study Shows Parent Praise Might Encourage Children’s Persistence

December 14, 2021
by Society for Research in Child Development


To become healthy and successful adults, children need to persist on tasks that they might not necessarily consider easy or fun, like studying, exercising, or brushing one’s teeth. Throughout childhood, persistence behavior changes daily, but the factors that shape this variability in persistence are understudied. A new study published in Child Development by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and the Sante Fe Institute, analyzed daily toothbrushing behaviors in three-year-olds and examined the relationship between their persistence on the task and parental praise.

“Our work is the first to show that fluctuations in parent praise relate to fluctuations in child persistence,” said Allyson Mackey, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. “We examined how variations in parent talk and stress, and child mood and sleep, separately impacted fluctuations in brushing time. Surprisingly, parents were not able to accurately predict which variables shaped brushing in their own children.”

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