5 Ways To Effectively Praise Your Child
How to Compliment Your Kids
As a parent, you are probably aware of the unique power of well-timed praise. Praise can motivate, encourage, and build strong traits in your child, if it’s done correctly. Give your kids compliments that help instead of hurt. Do so by choosing the appropriate timing and the right content. Then, be sure to heighten the power of your praise by applying other helpful strategies.
Selecting the Right Words
Be specific.Generalities don’t make for great compliments, so make sure to point out exactly what they did well or what you liked. This will come across as more genuine. It will also show your child that you’re really paying attention by offering them clear and specific praise.
- Instead of saying, “What a beautiful painting, Meghan!” you might say “Meghan, I really like the colors you chose for your painting. The swirl of blue and pink is beautiful.”
Focus on effort, not outcome.Most compliments refer to the outcome rather than what it took for the child to reach it. But, that makes praise ineffective unless the outcome is stellar. Praise your child no matter the outcome by speaking about their effort. This works better because a child can’t always control the outcome, but they can control their effort.
- High-five your child and say something like, “You practiced hard in band today, Ben!” It is important for your child to know that effort and even failure is an important part of success.
Remark on good strategy.Good praise is not person-oriented, but process-oriented. In addition to praising your child’s effort, another helpful method is to speak highly about the strategy they used.
- For example, your daughter is struggling with reading until she changes her study habits to include drawing pictures that help her explain the story and its characters. You might praise her by saying, “Reilly, your new way of studying seems to be really paying off! I can tell that you’re starting to like reading more now.”
Nix the comparison praise.A go-to type of praise is saluting a child for doing better than their peers. While social-comparison praise may make a child more motivated, it also teaches kids to focus on competing rather than mastering a skill. Plus, this sort of praise only works if your child continues to outperform others.
- For instance, you don't want to say "Jessica, you are so much smarter than your classmates" when your child wins the spelling bee. Instead, say something like, "You won the spelling bee, Jessica! You must have worked really hard, sweetie!"
Choosing the Right Moment
Aim for quality over quantity.It’s understandable that you want your kids to feel good about themselves at all times, but too much praise can make it lose its power. Make sure that your praise is genuine. If you praise your child too much, then they may start depending on praise or they may stop believing your words.
- Instead of praising for any and every little thing your child does, time praise for optimal impact. For example, tell your middle-schooler, “You made an “A” on your math quiz, Ryan! I can tell you must have studied hard.” But, skip the praise if your child always passes their math quizzes.
Wait until you mean it.Empty, insincere praise is noticed by children. A monotonous “Great job!” or “Awesome!” thrown around when they didn’t actually try hard or when you don’t actually mean it can make your child distrust you. Instead, save your compliment for when you are truly impressed.
Resist praising the obvious.Telling your daughter every day that she looks beautiful may seem wonderful on the outset, but over-praising general characteristics or skills that come easily can backfire.
- For instance, praising a kid for an easy task that they have long since mastered can make them wonder whether you think they’re incompetent or whether you can’t figure out how easy the task actually is.
Keep it mostly in the home.Parents love to gush about their kids’ accomplishments, but doing so in front of an audience may not be the best time. Telling your friends and anyone else who will listen about your kid’s successes can create even more pressure for your child to perform. Some children may even be embarrassed by public praise.
Optimizing Your Praise
Build a solid connection with your kids.Sometimes, parents use excessive praise as a stand-in for a real connection with their kids. Showing that you noticed an increase in a grade or improvement in a skill isn’t the same as sitting side-by-side with your child, helping them to improve.
Give them opportunities to make mistakes.Parents often lean heavily on empty praise when their child isn’t taking on any new challenges. You run out of things to say, so you repeat the same general statements. Your child can build a sense of autonomy if you regularly help them identify new skills to try, and praise them for their efforts in these activities.
- Letting them do things on their own shows that you believe in their abilities, which counts much more than empty praise.
- You can also help by brainstorming other ways to approach a task if one way is not working out for them. It is important to let your child make mistakes while also helping them to see mistakes as part of the learning process.
Be age-appropriate.The manner in which you praise your child should evolve over time, depending on your child’s developmental stage and unique needs. Typically, younger children require more praise than older children because they have fewer successes under their belt. When your child starts to see themselves as capable of mastering a skill, they don’t count on praise as much.
Skip the bribes.Many parents lean heavily on tangible rewards to get their children to continue positive behaviors, but it is important to avoid external motivators so that your child will learn internal motivation. Parenting experts suggest refraining from using cash as a form of praise.
- On one hand, cash doesn’t allow you to expound on why they deserve praise, such as effort or strategy. Also, getting cash doesn’t help your child build an appetite for mastery as an internal motivator—they are simply doing it for the money.
Video: Power of praise | Building self esteem in children using Effective Praise
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