Praising Correctly

parent-and-childWho knew paying your child a compliment could be so damaging?

According to researchers in the Netherlands, all praise is not created equal.  In fact, you may even harm your kid if you don’t applaud him properly.

Oh, the horror!

Scientists at Utrecht University claim certain types of praise have the ability to sabotage self-esteem in children with fragile egos.  The researchers categorize effort-based praise as the good type of praise and personal praise as its evil twin.

For example, if your child scores a touchdown during his school football game and you shout out:  “You are the most awesome player in the world!” you might not be doing your kid a favor.  Aside from embarrassing him in front of his friends and classmates, your cheers and expression of genuine glee may not have the effect on him as you planned.

While there is no harm in sharing your admiration for your child’s personal qualities, researchers suggest parents focus attention on the outcome of their offspring’s actions.  According to the experts, to build confidence and self-worth, children should be praised for their efforts not the results.

In other words, instead of telling your child that he is the bombdiggity when it comes to playing football, consider complimenting him on his commitment to the sport and his ability to have fun regardless of the game’s score.  Likewise, if your daughter presents you with a painting of her favorite flower, don’t tell her that she is the best artist in the universe; rather, concentrate on what you see on the paper.  Consider commenting on how well she incorporated so many different colors in one scene and that she did a fabulous job working independently.

Bottom line:  Scientists believe that when children are praised for their efforts rather than the outcome they are more likely to feel good about themselves.  In addition, by using effort-based praise, kids will be more inclined to try again when they fail since they won’t view the loss as a result of a personality flaw.

What type of praise do you heap upon your child?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.