Some people say that it is impossible to give your child too much praise. Others claim that constant praise will spoil your child and make him feel entitled, as if the world owed him something.
Besides how much you praise your child, you also have to consider the kind of praise you offer. Which type will encourage your child? Which type might hinder him? How can you offer praise that will have the best outcome?
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Not all praise is equal. Consider the following.
Too much praise can be harmful. Some parents dole out undeserved praise in an attempt to boost their children’s self-esteem. But young ones “are smart enough to see through the exaggeration and conclude that you do not really mean what you say,” warns Dr. David Walsh. “They know that they did not deserve [the praise] and may conclude that they cannot trust you.” *
Praise based on ability is better. Suppose your daughter has a knack for drawing. Naturally, you want to praise her for this, which will motivate her to hone her skill even more. But there can be a drawback. Praise focused on talent alone could cause your child to think that the only skills worth pursuing are those that come easily. She may even shy away from new challenges, fearing that she will fail. ‘If something takes effort,’ she reasons, ‘I must not be cut out for it—so why try?’
Effort-based praise is best. Children who are praised for their hard work and perseverance rather than simply for their talents come to realize a vital truth—that acquiring skill requires patience and effort. Knowing that, “they put in the work needed to achieve the desired result,” says the book Letting Go With Love and Confidence. “Even when they come up short, they don’t view themselves as failures, but as learners.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Praise effort, not just talent. Telling your child, “I can see that you put a lot of thought into your drawing,” may do more good than saying, “You’re a natural artist.” Both statements offer praise, but the second one could unwittingly imply that inborn skills are the only ones your child will be good at.
When you praise effort, you teach your child that ability can improve with practice. Your child might then take on new challenges more confidently.—Bible principle: Proverbs 14:23.
Help your child deal with failure. Even good people make mistakes, perhaps repeatedly. (Proverbs 24:16) But after each misstep, they get up, learn from the experience, and move on. How can you help your child to cultivate that positive approach?
Again, focus on effort. Consider an example: Suppose you often tell your daughter, “You’re a natural at math,” but then she fails a math test. She might conclude that she has lost her knack, so why try to improve?
When you focus on effort, however, you foster resilience. You help your daughter to view a setback as just that, and not as a disaster. So rather than give up, she may try another approach or simply work harder.—Bible principle: James 3:2.
Give constructive criticism. When given in the right manner, negative feedback will help a child, not crush his spirit. Also, if you regularly give appropriate praise, likely your child will welcome feedback on how he can further improve. Then his achievements will become a source of satisfaction both to him and to you.—Bible principle: Proverbs 13:4.
^ par. 8 From the book No: Why Kids—of All Ages—Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It.