In today’s world of constant positive reinforcement for kids, it can seem hard to believe that praise can backfire. Numerous studies have found that praising children can have the opposite effect, raising insecure children, dependent on receiving compliments. Children who are over-praised can feel scrutinized in every part of their daily life, including typical and mundane tasks like brushing teeth, sharing, or eating without making a mess.
But if heaping praise on your child isn’t effective, how can you let your children know you are proud of them and support the development of their healthy self-esteem?
First, it’s important to understand why you are praising in the first place. When we praise our kids, we feel a deep joy at witnessing children master tasks that were once too challenging for them to handle. You want to share your excitement with them and encourage them to keep going with your support and confidence they can do it!
These are important messages, and fortunately there are other methods besides praise to get them across.
Sometimes, just being there is enough. There is a level of deep connection between two people who can spend time together without saying anything but who are present in the moment and enjoying each other’s company. Holding back suggestions, praises, or corrections sends your child the message that you are giving them space and time to master skills on their own. You are fostering independence.
Paraphrasing their actions as they struggle with an experience is another great way to let them know that you are paying attention to their efforts and their motivation to succeed. Comments such as, “You kept trying to put your shoes on right and didn’t give up until they fit right,” sends a clear message that you are paying attention and that you took note of their endurance and resolve to succeed. Those are key personality traits to independent thinkers that can be fostered without resorting to excessive and even possibly damaging praise.
Reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, March 2020
- Praise in doses; too much praise can actually backfire.
- Giving praise is helpful to children, as long as you are sending the right message.
- Many times, children appreciate parents who are just there over words of encouragement.