Does Praise Help
hear a lot about how important it is to praise your kids. We should
let them know how great they are at everything they do, right?
The problem with
this notion is that at some point, your kids come into contact with
the real world. Your kids will start to notice that their drawings
aren’t really “great,” when compared to someone else’s drawings.
In fact, your
kids will hear the words, “great job” about six million times in their
lifetime. After awhile, this kind of praise loses its’ impact.
Praising your kids adds on to a world already filled with judgment.
And while occasional praise isn’t a problem, it’s the steady supply
that is. A parent’s job is to help their kids be more aware of
themselves, and more aware of their own preferences. Because when they
go to school, when they compete in sports, and when they spend time
with their friends, there’s constant judgment about who’s better,
smarter, or more popular. And this judgment clouds a child’s ability
to be aware.
Your kids will
be getting a good dose of judgment from all these places, so it’s
helpful to provide a place at home where they can escape some of it.
And you can do this by holding back your own judgment on them, and by
My kids would
often comment on how well they could do something. They’d say, “I’m no
good at drawing people,” or “I can’t shoot a basketball.” I would
usually start asking them questions about it. What was it specifically
that they didn’t think they could do? What happens when they try to do
it? What did they like about this activity? This last question was an
important thing to ask them. When we could focus on exactly what they
liked about it, they could see the activity from a different angle.
will try to convince their child that they are “good enough,” and this
usually gets you an argument you can’t win. “No, I’m not!” is a
difficult belief to argue against.
kids can condition them to seek approval. Instead of doing things for
themselves, they try to impress others. Your kids can begin to depend
on outside opinion, rather than listening to their own voice. When
this happens, you’ll notice that your kids are becoming “pleasers.”
Instead of finding joy in what they do, they become addicted to the
compliments and praise that can come their way.
But when it
doesn’t come, they feel lousy.
kids doesn’t create kids who are committed to doing better, and who
feel good about the things they do. It does help create kids who are
committed to receiving more praise. And it can help create kids who
are less self-motivated to develop their skills, and to try new
So if praising
your kids isn’t effective, what should you do? There are certainly
times when you’d like to delight in what they’re doing, and to give
them feedback. It’s possible to give your kids positive feedback, and
show your appreciation for what they’re doing, without using praise.
Avoiding praise doesn’t mean you have to withhold the love you have
for your kids! But there is a way to encourage your kids in a more
effective manner. Here are some ideas:
• Ask them to
judge things themselves: Rather than constantly telling them how you
feel about what they’ve done, ask them how they feel about it. “What
do you think about this drawing you made?” or, “How does that seem to
you?” are great questions to ask.
• Use “I”
statements, don’t label your kids: If my child draws a picture, you
can respond to it by saying, “I like how you mixed the blue and green
colors here.” If they play a soccer game, you can say, “I noticed how
hard you ran out there,” rather than, “You’re a good player.” This
stays focused on what you noticed, not on labeling your child.
• Ask them
curious questions that allow them to share their experience: When your
child makes something, ask them about how it was for them. “How did it
feel to make this?” or “How did you think of putting these things in
your picture?” are perfect questions. They allow your child to share
their experience with you.
• Focus on the
child’s own joy in what they do: Kids have a natural desire to become
better. Our job is to foster that internal drive to get better, by
helping our kids know what they enjoy about what they do. If I say,
“Wow, how was that? You looked like you had fun,” I’ve allowed my
child to focus on what it was he or she liked about the activity. And
if they can focus on what they enjoy, they’re more likely to keep
learning, and having fun!
When your kids
can get more of a sense of the “journey” and not the destination,
they’ll be a lot happier. And they’ll spend a lot less time in
judgment of themselves.
message is genuine, good things tend to happen. So don’t feel as
though you can never praise your child. Just make sure your feelings
are clear when you speak to your kids.
kids will get thousands of judgments and offerings of praise. And make
sure you know that praise will not help create a young man or woman
who has a strong and lasting sense of self-esteem.
educated, genuine, and enthusiastic responses to them will.
MA, CPCC, coaches parents by phone to balance their life and
improve their family relationships. He is an Instructor for the
Academy for Coaching Parents (www.acpi.biz),
and the author of the “Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent
Fathers” Ecourse. (http://www.markbrandenburg.com/father.htm)
© 2005-2014 FamilyTymes.org - All Rights Reserved