Praising your child is important and doing it the right way is equally important. There have been studies done about the harmful effects of praising children in a general sense instead of praising them for their effort or actions. Here are some easy tips for praising your child that will raise a happy, confident, and capable child.
Praise the action not the child-
There have been studies done that have shown that children who were praised on their intelligence (i.e. “you’re so smart”) were more likely to be unmotivated and did worse on the test than the children who were praised for their effort. To praise the action rather than the child you could say something like “Wow, you worked so hard on that test. I am so proud of you!”.
Praise will mean more when the child feels like you are being genuine. One way to do this is to point out something specific that you are proud of. For instance, instead of saying “that is a beautiful drawing”, you could say “look at that beautiful dog you drew”.
Help them recognize the internal satisfaction of doing something well-
This helps them learn to be proud of themselves and teaches them not to require an outside source of praise for self-assurance. When they worked hard on something, whether or not they succeeded, point out how it makes them feel inside. “You worked so long on that picture and look how well it came out. It feels so nice to see what we can do when we work hard, doesn’t it?”
Praise for effort even after failure-
You could also discuss what could be done differently to improve the outcome, to boost their creative thinking skills. When a child has spent a good deal of time or effort on a project, whether it be with blocks or some other kind of project, and it ends in failure say something like, “I saw how hard you were working on that, you did great. Why do you think it didn’t work like you thought it would? What do you think you can do differently to make it work?”
When you see them doing something good, acknowledge the act by repeating it back to them-
It is just as (or more) important for you to praise your child for things they do that are positive as it is for you to try to discourage bad behaviors and attitudes. Acknowledge when they do something positive and repeat the action back to them so they know you noticed. If your child picks up their toys or takes out the trash unexpectedly say something like, “Wow, you picked up all your toys! Thank you.” Follow it up with some kind of physical touch such as a pat on the back, a hug, or a high-five.
Do you think there is a right and wrong way to praise young children?