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How to Praise Your Child

Updated on August 29, 2018

You can do it!

How Praise Can be Bad

It's apparent that this subject is a study of psychology and science tied into basic human behavior. It doesn't have to be difficult to sort out. Like anything else, K.I.S.S ...with the last "S" not standing for Stupid, rather this time it stands for "Second-guesser." "Basically, the concept of praise boils down to this two main thoughts.

  1. Praising everything children do does not build self-esteem or confidence
  2. To be effective, praise should be genuine, honest and specific.

Let me also point out that praise needs to be balanced with constructive criticism. This tells the child that it is OK to make mistakes and allows you a chance to explore new options together. Praising your children should not be about how smart they are or how fast they run. Be specific, B U T ... Emphasize the effort, not the outcome.

I read on a 2013 article I found on {www.scpr.org/} the following: “Praising talent and ability makes kids afraid of difficulty and it makes them wilt when they have setbacks,”said Stanford Psychology professor Carol Dweck," She goes on to say that, "When parents praise kids for talent or intelligence, they’re making it harder for them to deal with life." “By 3 years of age,” Dweck said “you see kids who don’t want to try anything hard and give up really easily, get upset even when they make mistakes.”


Excess Praise Leads To Unreasonable Standards

This hub is not to discourage or question the importance of supporting and encouraging children. We all know children need our guidance,feedback and direction. We need to love our kids and hug them;plus help them feel good about themselves. Praise,however, is not the same thing as love,hugs and encouragement. There is an important distinction and I want to share what that difference is and explore the dangers of praising your children too much.

I read an article that referenced a 2007 study that split a group of 5th graders into two groups.The result of the study was revealing and to me, unexpected. The children that were praised for their intelligence performed worse in subsequent events and were afraid to take on harder tasks for fear of failure and disapproval. The group of 5th graders that were praised for their efforts had more enthusiasm about being asked to do the next tasks,. and were excited to see how they would do at something new.1

"When parents, teachers and coaches label a child, they tell the child that he or she is the label and is judged for this label, not for his actual capabilities. The child becomes risk-averse and doesn't want to chance messing up and being labeled "dumb." In other words, a "smart" child often believes that expending effort is something only "dumb" kids have to do." That was a quote from the article. 2 Who would ever think to praise is bad? Don't stress.... Praising is not bad. The important thing is to be specific about the praise you give.

Footnotes: 1 & 2...(The link is abcnews.go.com/GMA/AmericanFamily/story?id=2877896&page=1).

Sound familiar?

Don't praise the obvious, only say it when you mean it.

So, now we are aware that a child who is praised too much may fall into the you can do no wrong trap. They are made to feel that they are only loved and accepted as long as they continue to perform and act at unrealistically high levels.

For the young parents, It's fine to tell a toddler everything he does is good and how happy that makes you. Just be specific. Don't gush that just because he/she bounced a ball for 10 seconds straight means that they are bound to be the next Micheal Jordan. It is important to give our children realistic feedback. The more specific you are with your praise, the more healthy the message that we send to our child is.

We need to recognize progress and effort instead of excellent or outstanding results. Everyone begins life by trying to do things and everyone will get different results. If they are better at coloring than they were last week, tell them how their coloring has improved. If they get an "A" in school, praise the hard work they did that resulted in that "A", not the "A" itself.

Remember, empty praise is useless. Praise can be very helpful when it is sincere and connected to real effort and accomplishment. Too much praise or frequent praise that isn't connected to real achievements can create self-doubts in the child and leave them thinking that something must be wrong with them if they always need encouragement.


Your opinion ?

When you were growing up, how did praise or lack of praise, affect you?

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    • Suzanne Alicie profile image

      Suzanne Alicie 

      9 years ago

      Great hub! I have always thought that parents who insisted that their child be praised for every little thing were setting them up for disappointment when they enter the real world.

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