A lot of moms and dads struggle with finding the right balance when it comes to praising their kids:
- How much is too much?
- How much is too little?
- Is quantity that important, or is it the quality of praise that really matters?
- How does praise affect child behaviour?
While there's no secret formula, understanding the when, where, and how of praising is an important tool in raising confident kids with a healthy self-esteem.
Knowing a little bit more about praise and the effects and outcomes of different types can make a big difference in your kid’s development. It can also impact the behaviours and qualities they see as being noteworthy. The purpose of praise is to encourage children to continue positive child behaviours that produce positive outcomes. It is also to make sure that your child has a healthy sense of self-esteem and purpose, and to know that they are noticed and appreciated.
Too much praiseWhile it might seem counter-intuitive to a parent who just wants the best for their child, praising a child too much can come across as insincere. Sincerity is important to children. Your praise must be genuine. If you try to praise them all the time, it can come across as if you are trying to convince them that they are good. It can also make them dependent on your praise for every little thing, which means they will be afraid to take risks. Over-praising or praising for doing the wrong things can also create an inaccurate picture of your child’s own strengths and weaknesses.
Reward effort – not innate abilities
Praise should be focussed on the effort that they put into an achievement. Praising them for their intelligence, attractiveness, or gifted abilities can make a child overly focussed on results. The problem with this is that, following a failure - the same children put in less effort, show less enjoyment, and often attribute their failure solely to a lack of ability, which they believed was an unchangeable fact, causing them to perform poorly in future efforts.
The opposite effect is that children who are praised for their effort show more interest in learning and persistence. They also show more enjoyment and could attribute their failure to a lack of effort, which they believe they can change. Rewarding effort also encourages children to work harder and seek new challenges, resulting in an excellent sense of personal responsibility and control.
The key is to direct your praise towards areas that your children have control over, such as effort, attitude, responsibility, commitment, discipline, focus, decision making, compassion, generosity, respect, and love. So, this means that you need to look at exactly why a child did well at something and praise that area, for example:
“You prepared so thoroughly for this test and your marks reflect that!”
“You thought of your little brother first and helped him today, that was very thoughtful.”
“You focussed during that entire cricket game and you were a credit to your team.”
What do you think of the modern methods of parenting? Do we under, or over-praise our children? Please tell us your experiences, we all need to work at getting this balance right!