How To Praise Children Effectively
Until recently, many parents mistakenly believed that showering our children with praise on a regular basis was vital. Praise for our children comes naturally to us, almost as a reflex. It feels natural to say, “Great work!” whenever your child does anything fantastic.
However, we must consider what we are doing with all of this praise. Although praise can improve motivation and self-esteem, its effects aren’t always long-lasting. Our ultimate goal should be to help our children develop intrinsic motivation.
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We don’t want our kids to become addicted to praise and driven only by external validation. We want them to be inwardly motivated as much as possible. Because it is personally fulfilling, our children should want to put up an effort, perform well, learn, and grow.
When provided at the correct time, effective praise can help to foster intrinsic motivation. It can assist our children in being more self-assured, resilient, and self-directed.
What Are the Characteristics of Effective Praise?
What exactly does “effective praise” imply? Here’s the ultimate guide on giving your child healthy, intrinsically motivating praise, compiled from significant studies on the issue.
It may come as a shock to learn this, but too much praise can be harmful to our children. This is correct for a variety of reasons:
Excessive praise, according to Jim Taylor, author of Your Kids Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You, reduces children’s expectations. Overly praised children may not push themselves to improve.
- Excessive praise can make your youngster believe that your approval and love are contingent on their accomplishments.
- Too much praise might breed “praise junkies” who yearn for others’ favour. Instead of learning to create their own opinions about their talents, these children may come to rely on the evaluation and judgement of others.
- Excessive praise might also put you under a lot of stress. As youngsters start to rely on other people’s acceptance, they become fearful of losing it. As a result, they may shun risky activities and become self-conscious instead of confident.
- Excessive praise might lead to a loss in intrinsic motivation.
These results were reached by psychologists and researchers after conducting significant investigation. Preschoolers were taught to sketch with magic markers in one study, for example. Some people were rewarded for drawing, while others were rewarded surprise. Others, on the other hand, did not anticipate or receive benefits.
Later, the children who expected prizes had reduced intrinsic motivation for drawing because they believed that the aim of painting was to receive rewards. Although praise isn’t a monetary reward, it can have a similar effect. Children may believe that their accomplishments and hobbies are primarily for the purpose of gaining external acceptance and praise rather than for their own happiness.
Children who receive excessive praise may eventually learn to conform rather than innovate. They’re less inclined to be creative or self-directed, and they may feel suffocated by stress. They may also choose activities that they believe would satisfy their parents and gain them the admiration they crave. For these reasons, we must use caution while praising our children.
Children are inclined to doubt sweeping or generic praise, according to psychologists Jennifer Henderlong Corpus and Mark Lepper, who evaluated over 30 years of studies on the impact of praise. Specific praise is perceived as more genuine and meaningful by children.
Although saying, “Good job!” is simple and easy, strive to compliment anything particular that your youngster performed. It is not necessary for specific appreciation to be extensive. You can commend your child’s perseverance, organization, courage, kindness, and other qualities in one word.
Specific praise also provides more useful information to your youngster than broad praise. “Good job,” unlike specific praise, does not tell your child what they did well or how they can improve.
Catch yourself next time before you give banal praise. Ask yourself, “What did your child do especially well?” and remark something like, “You sorted your toys so nicely!” alternatively, “It’s fantastic that you persevered in solving that arithmetic issue rather than giving up!”
Many parents are unaware that children are more perceptive than they think, and they can often sense the difference between genuine and false praise.
Children assume you feel sorry for them, are manipulating them, or don’t understand them when they believe your praise is false, according to Henderlong and Lepper’s research. If this is the case, the praise will be dismissed, rendering it ineffective.
Insincere praise is not just ineffective; it can also be harmful. Children will ask why people feel the need to lie to them about their abilities and successes when they know they haven’t done well but are complimented regardless. They may believe that praise is being used to hide their incompetence or that there is something “wrong” with him.
Furthermore, you don’t want to give your child false praise, which may lead them to believe they don’t need to improve or try harder the next time.
When our children perform poorly, we may feel compelled to praise them in order to make them feel better. These good intentions will backfire and make your youngster feel even worse, so only provide sincere praise when it is truly deserved.
Praise The Process / The Effort
Person praise is praise directed at a person’s abilities, such as “You’re very smart!” or “You have a lot of artistic talent.”
Praise for effort, tactics used, attentive concentration, self-correction, and other aspects of the process are all examples of process praise.
Process praise is significantly more effective than the other two sorts of praise. Dr. Carol S. Dweck, a researcher, notes that individual praise can lead to a fixed perspective, but process praise leads to a growth attitude.
This is because praise from others leads children to believe that certain attributes, such as intelligence, are fixed and do not change over time. As a result, these children may acquire a fixed mindset and avoid challenging situations that will put their abilities to the test.
Process praise, on the other hand, encourages youngsters to stretch themselves, take chances, put up an effort, and keep learning and growing. These kids acquire a development mentality, which recognizes that intelligence and ability can be improved through practice and effort.
Person praise, as well as the fixed perspective it fosters, might reduce intrinsic drive and tenacity. When faced with a challenging challenge, a child with a fixed perspective is more likely to give up. They’ll think they’ve reached the end of their capabilities.
When children experience failures concerning attributes that have constantly been praised, research reveals that human praise is eventually harmful.
Praise your child’s effort, tenacity, good strategies, etc. instead of delivering ability-oriented or individual praise. You’ll boost your child’s motivation and encourage them to keep trying and improving.
Praise Should Not Be A Reward
Remember the experiment with the preschoolers and the magic markers?
Giving rewards for specific actions (in this example, drawing) resulted in a drop in intrinsic drive, according to the researchers. This was due to the fact that instead of drawing for fun, the preschoolers were now drawing in the hopes of receiving a reward.
Praise is its own reward, even if it isn’t material. Praise makes youngsters — and adults — feel better about themselves and accepted by others for a short time. The issue is that children might grow addicted to earning praise as a “prize.”
Children may only want to work on chores that will likely result in praise if this happens. This can lead to children avoiding difficult tasks and only pursuing hobbies in which they are certain of their ability to succeed.
Giving youngsters informational feedback on their competency instead of praise as a reward can be beneficial. “You got a 90 percent,” or “You obtained the highest grade in the class,” are examples of this.
Because it changes children’s perceptions about their ability to succeed, this form of praise can enhance the intrinsic drive. They may want to go for 100 percent next time now that they know they can score 90 percent.
According to studies, this form of praise has a greater beneficial influence on intrinsic motivation than neither no praise nor praise used as a reward (showering a child with praise to make them feel good).
These studies suggest that providing feedback on competency can boost motivation and satisfaction, as well as encourage pupils to spend more time on a subject.
Praise But Don’t Compare
Competence feedback can also take the form of social comparison (“You did so much better than the average kid your age!”). Experts warn, however, that comparing your child to others, even if you do so positively, is not a good idea.
If children learn to measure their success by comparing themselves to others, they may be unprepared to deal with situations in which they are outperformed in the future.
Consider the case where your child excels in elementary school. They are frequently told that they received the highest grade on the arithmetic test, that they submitted the best essay in the class, and so on.
They will then attend a competitive private middle school. They’re still a great student, but they’re not the best in the class anymore. Instead of celebrating their achievements, they are more likely to feel like failures since they have evolved to associate success with outperforming their peers.
Although further research on the possibly detrimental impacts of compared feedback is needed, experts believe that applauding individual task accomplishment is likely to be preferable to communal comparison. Concentrate on your child’s ability to succeed or master a task on an individual basis.
Try to give your child non-evaluative praise. Avoid using phrases like “I enjoy how clean your room looks,” for example.
Instead, encourage your child by saying things like, “Your room looks beautiful.” You got rid of all of your toys!”
This form of compliment focuses on what your child did well rather than your own assessment or judgment of the accomplishment. As a result, your child will be more proud of their personal accomplishments. They can also develop a feeling of personal appraisal rather than relying solely on the opinions of others.
Evaluative praise may make your youngster believe that you only like or approve them when they are well-behaved, clean, or performing well, for example.
Establish Reasonable Expectations
Your praise should signal to your youngster acceptable and realistic expectations. You don’t want these expectations to be unrealistically low or unrealistically high.
Giving your child the impression that you have low expectations for them might be detrimental to their motivation and self-esteem.
At the same time, unreasonably high expectations might derail a child’s motivation. This is because these unrealistic expectations place undue stress on a child. When a youngster perceives that something is required of them that they cannot fulfill, they may choose not to attempt.
For example, if you lavish your child with praise such as, “This is the best novel I’ve ever read!” your child may become uneasy or worried. Are they now expected to write the best stories ever on a regular basis? Will they be able to maintain their current level of success?
As a result, it’s critical to communicate fair and controllable expectations to your child.
Praise More Than Achievements
It’s normal to congratulate our children on their academic achievements, hard work, and outstanding sports or artistic achievements. But don’t forget to instill in your youngster the value of good character.
Give your youngster praise for virtues such as charity, kindness, forgiveness, courage, and perseverance. Praise your youngster for sharing toys, sticking up for a buddy, assisting others, or displaying good sportsmanship, for example.
Show your child that you value and care about who they are as a person, not just what they can do.
You know you don’t want to praise your child all the time, yet withholding praise and encouragement completely might feel cold and cruel. Here are some alternatives to lavishing praise on your youngster.
Say “Thank You”
A simple “thank you” for tidying up their toys, finishing their homework before watching TV, or being nice can go a long way with your child. This demonstrates to your child that you have observed and valued their positive behavior without lavishing praise on them.
Recognize Their Objectives
Inquire about your child’s own objectives. What would they wish to see changed? What is a hobby or interest that they would like to pursue more? Then give special attention to these aims and interests.
Allow your child to take on the role of expert or instructor by asking them questions on something they’re passionate about or something they’ve accomplished. “What is your favorite part of this drawing?” you could inquire. or “Which part was the most difficult to draw?” You might also ask them about dinosaurs if they like them as a way to acknowledge their understanding of the subject.
Talking about their accomplishments and interests will make your child feel proud. You may also inquire, “Did you pick up these toys all by yourself?” to congratulate your child on a job well done without overdoing it
Don’t Say Anything
It’s quite acceptable to say nothing at all at times. According to psychologist Jim Taylor, children can tell when they’ve done a good job on their own, therefore praise isn’t necessary.
In truth, praise becomes required only when we overdo it and educate our children to rely on it. It may seem unusual, but our children do not require constant praise. It’s perfectly acceptable to say nothing or simply offer your youngster a pat on the back or a smile instead.
Changing the Way You Give Praise
When provided correctly, praise can boost intrinsic motivation, perseverance, self-esteem, and self-direction. Effective compliments should include the following:
- Use discretion, specificity, and sincerity.
- Instead of praising the individual, praise the process.
- Provide positive feedback about your child’s abilities.
- Avoid relying too heavily on social comparisons.
- Realistic expectations should be communicated.
- Instead of being critical, be encouraging.
- Instead than focusing solely on accomplishments, emphasise character and effort.
You can attempt a simple “thank you,” focus on your child’s specific goals, ask questions, or even say nothing if you want to start cutting back on excessive praise.
Children do not require continual praise; parents simply feel compelled to praise our children at all times. Continue to praise your child as often as you want, but follow these recommendations to make sure it’s healthy, effective, and intrinsically motivating.