Tips For Praising Your Kids The Right Way
The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. It is very important that we hold the criticism, unless it is gentle, constructive and absolutely necessary. But it turns out we need to be equally mindful of the way we praise our children, as giving them too much of the wrong kinds of praise can hinder their motivation to learn new things, work towards goals, and develop the habit of consistent effort that will benefit them down the track. The way we teach them to see themselves can have a massive impact on their personal development, and their ability to retain their self-esteem through the trying adolescent years, into an emotionally stable adulthood.
How can we make sure the way we praise our children is beneficial to them? Here are some helpful guidelines.
Praise the Actions, Not the Person
Praising or congratulating kids for things they have done, and the way they have done them helps them learn which behaviours they can gain positive results from going forward.
Eg.“You put all your books away! Looks great!” is more useful praise than “You are such a tidy boy!”
Avoid classifying your children as “tidy”, “smart”, “cute” or anything else. No-one can live up to such a label all the time, and a “smart” kid who suddenly finds schoolwork tough in year 5 might not tell you, for fear you might think less of them for not being “smart” enough.
Connected with the first idea, letting kids know exactly what they are doing that is so impressive is the key to offering them truly constructive feedback.
E.g. “I see you have finished all your maths homework already. You worked quickly! That is great.” gives kids much more information than a general, “Good job!”
Encourage Improvement, Not Comparison
When your child aces the spelling words at the end of week test, it is more important to appreciate how much better they did than the previous week, and the differences in how thoroughly they prepared to bring about an improved result. What is not important is how many of their classmates they ‘beat’, or what their best friend got. We all run our own race in this life, and learning to take satisfaction in our own process of constant improvement has more lasting value than wondering if we are better than our peers all the time.
Praise Effort Over Achievement
While we all like a good result, any achievement your child makes is a reward in and of itself. If they are a toddler who climbed up on the sofa for the first time, or a teen track star who just won the blue ribbon, acknowledging the work they put in to get there shows true respect for their tenacity, and will help them become adults who work hard for things they want. Winning is awesome, and should be celebrated, but the kid who ran their heart out and came seventh is also deserving of praise.
Even small children can tell when you are just trying to be nice. Research shows elementary school kids are aware of adult tendencies to overpraise kids who are actually doing badly, in the hopes it will motivate them to do better. If you are doling out praise left right and centre, you child might experience anxiety that they are underachieving. Many parents desire to shower their children with adoration, but you needn’t praise unnecessarily to do so. A lot of “I love you’s can go a long way.