How To Effectively Praise Your Kids

Love instead of praise. Why shouldn’t we praise children for every little thing and what strengthens their self-confidence?

According to modern psychological theses, parental praise is a postmodern version of punishment. And they would like to cancel it. Praising your child for everything has become a very bad habit for modern parents. For some parents, praise is a way to say I love you. Others are trying to increase the self-confidence of their children. However, both are not the best choices.

Praise can really boost children’s self-confidence, but when you praise your offspring for every single act, they’ll create a distorted picture of themself,” according to words family therapist Jesper Juul.

Jesper also says, “In addition, many of us do not realize that praise triggers the production of joy hormones, on which one can become addicted.” A reward dependent relationship is formed, instead of creating a truly close love bond in which none does need rewards.

Types of Praise

Personal praise

This praise highlights kids’ natural abilities, like intelligence or talent for playing a musical instrument/singing. It’s the kind of praise we often use to express affection. For example, you might say, “You have such a beautiful singing voice.” Personal praise tends to focus on the talents kids are born with.

Personal praise can make kids less willing to try new things. It can keep kids from developing a growth mindset, they can believe that their abilities can improve over time.

Effort praise

Praise focused on what kids can control, like how much time they spend on a project or their approach to do something. This kind of praise is more important than personal praise.

Here’s the difference. If your child gets a good grade on project, personal praise might be, “Wow, you’re good at science!” Effort praise, on the other hand, might sound like this: “I’m so impressed at how hard you worked on your science project.”

You can make effort based praise even more powerful by getting specific. For example, “You did a nice job waiting your turn to talk while I was on the phone.” Praise like that clearly tells kids what they did well. It also reminds them of the behavior you want to see.

You can also use this kind of praise to acknowledge steps your child is taking to get better at something. For example your child’s goal is to get to school on time. There are smaller steps along the way: waking up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, and having a bag packed and ready. If you praise the steps your child does well, you’re showing that the bigger goal is something they can achieve if they keep going.

Source: Understood

7 How to Give Praise

1. Praise sincerely and honestly

We sometimes praise children purposely to boost their self-esteem, motivate them, encourage certain behavior, or protect them from hurtful feelings. However, if encouraging words are not perceived as sincere and honest, children won’t feel very encouraged​.

Encouraging words that are inconsistent with self-view may be perceived as insincere. These encouraging words are discounted when children think about their own behavior that is contrary to the praise. Such encouragement can lead to children’s self-criticism and even intentional sabotage to resolve such discrepancy.

Also overly general encouragement may also be perceived as insincere because the more general the praise, the less likely it is consistent with the existing facts. Not praising children spontaneously or praising just to reinforce or manipulate behavior are perceived to be insincere as well.

You’re a genius for solving that problem! (“Genius? I only got one out of three questions!”)You came up with an excellent answer for the last question.
What an angel you are! (“I’m an angel for sharing a cookie? What about not doing homework last night?”)It’s generous of you to share your cookie.
You did very well. I’m sure you will do well again next time. (manipulate)I love the solution you came up with.

Source: Parenting for brain

2. Be Specific

Instead of extensive words of encouragement, praise children with descriptive and specific comments. The less general the support is, the more likely it is to be correct and to be perceived as sincere.

What an awesome painting!I like the way you are using different colors on this drawing.
Good job!You came up with a thoughtful answer and really nailed that question!

Source: Parenting for brain

3. Praise efforts and the process, not their achievement or ability

When children are praised for their efforts in doing a task, they learn to attribute the success to their efforts. Because effort is a quality that we all have the power to control and improve, these children will therefore focus more on putting in the effort to practice or develop skills than on pursuing results.

This praise helps children adopt a growth mindset which allows children to believe in practicing and improving skills. When they fail, these children believe that they have failed because they simply have not tried hard enough. The failure will be avoidable if they put in more hard work. So these kids are motivated to try again and they tend to improve in performance​​. They are more resilient and do not crumble when they fail.

So this type of praise can increase kids’ motivation. However, researchers have found that these children are also more likely to sacrifice potentially valuable learning opportunities if these opportunities hold the risk of making mistakes and do not ensure outstanding performance. 

What now? Praising ability has an immediate benefit in motivation, but it also has a long-term cost in vulnerability when facing failure or difficult situations.

To avoid this potential problem, parents can praise the process which is another type of encouragement related to effort​. Process includes not only effort but also other qualities such as strategies, thoughtfulness, concentration, self-corrections.

What a smart boy!I can see that you worked really hard on putting the pieces together.
Your ability in puzzle solving is excellent.Your strategy in solving this puzzle by separating the colors was excellent!
You are such a great puzzle-solver!You are good at trying different ways to solve a hard puzzle.

Source: Parenting for brain

4. Avoid controlling or conditional praise

Controlling phrases are different from positive feedback used to affirm a child’s progress, improvement, or task mastery. They are given intending to manipulate or control. For example, statement such as “Good! I know you can do better” is intended to motivate the child to try harder next time.

I’m sure you will want to do better next time.You’ve worked really hard on this every day and I like how you’ve drawn this picture using bright colors.
You did very well on that one, just as expected.You did very well on that one.
If you keep it up every day, I believe you will do very well.You did really well in collecting the data.

Source: Parenting for brain

5. Avoid comparison praise

 It’s easy to fall into the habit of encouraging by comparison. After all, that’s how most of us were raised. We were compared in school, in sports, in extracurricular activities, in university also at work.

At times, those comparisons with someone else can motivate us to study or work harder. The problem is when we fail.

Comparison praising leaves children vulnerable to future setbacks. Kids who are praised by comparison don’t stop comparing when they fail. Instead, they lose motivation faster. When these kids face difficulties, they show more negative emotion, frustration, anxiety and helplessness than children who are mostly praised for their mastery of the task.

Social-comparison praise teaches children that winning, not learning, is the goal. To prevent failure, these kids avoid challenges or stop learning new things that require skills they don’t already have an advantage over others.

You are so good, just like your sister.You are good at playing this game.
You are the smartest in your class!You solved the problem with such great focus.

Source: Parenting for brain

6. Avoid easy-task praise or over-praise

For kids who have low self-esteem, their parents may give inflated praise in an attempt to help raise it. Paradoxically, this praise can lower these children’s motivation and sense of self-worth in setbacks

For kids who have high self-esteem, inflated praise does not lower self-esteem, but cultivates narcissism. Narcissistic children feel superior to others, believe they are entitled to privileges and want to be admired by others.

Overpraising also conditions kids to expect praises every time. It becomes an extrinsic reward that reduces, not increases, motivation. Frequent praising also leads children to believe the absence of praise signifies failure.

7. Be spontaneous

To avoid overpraising or sounding insincere, the best way to use words of praise is to give them spontaneously when they’re not expected. Compliment something unexpectedly and authentically.

For example, include an encouraging note for a child, provide affirmation or offer appreciation words for kids as a surprise. Appreciating children’s work can take many forms. You can also encourage your child physically, like give them a big hug, high-five or pat on the back to acknowledge their achievements. Do not make it a habit to praise every positive action. You don’t have to praise every day to help kids feel motivated.

Benefits of praise and encouragement for children :

  • Children learn who they are and the things that they do are pleasing to their parents and caregivers.
  • Children develop a personal sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
  • Children who believe they have self-worth go on to treat themselves and others positively.
  • Children with positive self-worth tend to make better grades in school, do not get discouraged easily, and have more productive lives overall.

Source: Family builders

“With healthy self-esteem, your child will flourish.”

Check out also these tips

Scroll Up Back to articles

Share your experience with us!

Don't miss anything!