At first glance, it may seem like an unpopular viewpoint, but plenty of ink has been spilled discussing the merits, and detriments, of giving children a lot of praise. There is nothing wrong with praise itself, it’s just the way that a lot of parents give it that is the problem.
Congratulating a child for attributes over which they have no control can cause more harm than good. Perhaps your child is attractive, a great athlete, or intellectually gifted, these are innate qualities that are a gift. If a child is getting praise for something over which they have no control, it can sometimes cause them to feel confused and even instill the belief that they don’t have to try to be good or rewarded.
The “great job” trap
Your child doesn’t need to receive your acknowledgment at every step of the way. When you are constantly shouting out “great job” you can diminish events when the child does something that is actually praiseworthy. Try to keep the praise for moments when your child has worked hard and is now seeing the positive results of all of their efforts. When you are praising your child for everything, from tying their shoes properly to clearing their plate away after dinner, you are sending them a message that can hamper their development.
Keep the “great jobs” for times when they put in a lot of extra effort and really went the extra mile to achieve something special. This can mean spending hours working on their science project to get it just right, to putting in the time necessary to master their time tables. Make sure that you are admiring their efforts, rather than the outcome. We all know that even when we put in the effort, we don’t always achieve the desired result.
Why children don’t need as much praise as you may think
The point of praise is to motivate your children to act in a positive manner. When every tiny success is celebrated and every failure is overlooked, it can be confusing for your child. They may begin to believe that failure is wrong and should be hidden. Of course, we as adults know that failure is just a part of life, and it can provide a lot of valuable insight that brings us future growth. It’s important for children to also learn those lessons, and as parents, we have to make sure that we don’t try to turn everything into a positive experience.
Children are much more resilient than we give them credit for, and they don’t false praise from their parents in order to feel pride in their achievements! Rather than be your child’s constant cheerleader, why not hang back a bit and let them come to you when they need a little extra support?
Praise and development
It is important to only praise children for their actions, not their inherent abilities. When you lavish praise on your child for being so smart, when they don’t do well it can cause them to feel stupid. When they are praised for their dedication and attention to detail, they begin to understand that these are traits that they want to further develop in themselves. It is important to remind them that sometimes things don’t always work out the way that we want them to, and that’s okay. Make sure that when things don’t turn out great that they understand that this outcome shouldn’t prevent them from trying again.
Of course, no one is saying that you should never praise your child. We just want parents to understand that not every little action warrants a full dose of “well done”, “great job!” and “you are so amazing!”. Using praise in the right moments can help your kids gain the confidence that they need to succeed, but too much of it can become a detriment to their healthy development. Give your children the space they need to succeed and fail on their own. When you are there hovering over them and offering constant advice and feedback, it can be difficult for them to develop properly.
Kids need encouragement, but it’s also important for them to find their own way!