The Right Way to Praise

boy playing drums
Image via Katie Hurley

Providing praise plays an important role in building a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.  Praise can make the difference between continuing to work through something difficult and giving up out of frustration.  Praise can inspire kids to continue to work hard and prevail.

But a little bit goes a long way. 

When kids are given a “great job!” for every little accomplishment along the way, it can lose meaning.  While some parents fear that their kids might become praise junkies if they receive “too much” praise, that’s not really the issue.  The issue is that, if you want to increase self-esteem and build confidence, the praise you give has to have meaning.

{ MORE: Raising Responsible Kids }

Believe it or not, there are actually dos and don’ts when it comes to praising your children.

3 tips for praising your kids:

Be specific.

Kids work hard to master new milestones and learn new things.  They are also pleasers by nature and often seek praise and approval from their parents.  Give it to them.  But tell them exactly what you’re so proud of in order to show them that you’re really paying attention.

Constantly cheering, “great job!” or “you’re amazing!” is fairly meaningless.  Chances are your child is super excited that she finally made her away across those monkey bars.  Show her that you share her excitement by telling her exactly that.

Praise actions.

Praising kids for inherent talents or personal qualities potentially sets them up for failure.  Not every piece of art is a masterpiece and you can’t score the winning goal every single time.  When kids are only praised for the end result, they put pressure on themselves to repeat that result over and over again.

We all have those parenting moments where a child comes to us with an incredible piece of art, or scores the winning goal, and we want to jump and cheer and say, “you’re the best artist ever!” or “you’re the most amazing athlete!”  But we have to choose our words carefully.

Praising kids for inherent talents or personal qualities potentially sets them up for failure.  Not every piece of art is a masterpiece and you can’t score the winning goal every single time.  When kids are only praised for the end result, they put pressure on themselves to repeat that result over and over again.

Praise the hard work that went into the end result.  Talk about the interesting brush strokes on the painting or the days of practice that led up to such a great game.  When you praise effort, you show your kids that hard work and determination are more important than being the best.

Be genuine.

Bottom line:  Kids know when we’re dialing it in.  They know that praise offered when you’re staring at your iPhone instead of the block tower standing before you hold know meaning.  They understand the difference between genuine praise and faking it.

Offering praise when you mean shows your children that you are aware of their hard work and effort.  It also shows that you are present and focused on them.  Praise them when you mean.

 

 

What do you think?

The Right Way to Praise

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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3 comments

  1. LIZ says:

    very hepful article tnx

  2. bmrow74116 says:

    I believe praise is very important. I offer praise to my baby every chance I get.

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