Many parents believe that praise helps children with their self-esteem and confidence. However research reveals that too much praise could also make children narcissistic. In addition, with constant praise, children often engage in activities to seek their parent’s approval. On the other end of the spectrum, when parents don’t praise at all, children may feel like they are not good enough or that their parents don’t care. So how do parents know what the right dose of praise should be?
As parents, we want our children to be motivated in life, we want them to engage in challenging tasks, persevere through hard work, and be confident in their abilities.
Here are 3 tips to help parents provide the right “dose” of praise:
1. Quality vs. Quantity: Children don’t need to be praised all the time. Reserve your praise for when the time is right. You will know when the time is right if they are working hard for a performance or game, if they are taking risks to challenge themselves and getting out of their comfort zone, or if they are showing signs of resilience when they going gets tough.
For example, if your daughter does well in school she doesn’t need to be continuously praised for finishing her homework or getting straight A’s. However, if there is a subject having trouble with but perseveres in it through hard work, it’s the right time for some praise (see tips below for what type of praise).
2. Process vs. Product: Focus on the effort not the outcome. When children try something challenging, they need support from their parents. Don’t worry about the outcome or final product. Let them know that they are on the right track. You know this is not an easy feat—but you are thrilled that they are working hard on something that matters to them.
For example, parents can say, “I like how focused you are on putting the puzzle pieces together. There are 300 pieces and you are really concentrating on figuring out each portion of the puzzle.” Rather than “Well done! You finished half of the puzzle, you are almost there!”
3. Specific vs. General: What you say matters. Be specific about the effort they put in. This will help children develop a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset. With a growth mindset, children believe they can achieve their goals by working hard. However, with a fixed mindset, they believe that if they do not excel right away, they believe they do not have the intelligence or talent for it.
For example, parents can say: “I really enjoyed listening to the song ‘Rain Drops’ you composed. The quarter notes did sound like rain drops falling from the sky!” This means more to your child than a simple, “Great job!” “You are a natural! I can’t believe you were able to compose and play it!”
Written by: Amita Roy Shah, Ed.D.