As parents, we often struggle to find the right balance when it comes to praising our kids. While there is no “one size fits all” guideline for praising, child psychologists say that understanding the intent and effects of praise on kids serve as a good start in boosting their self-esteem and confidence, as well as to encourage good behaviour.
Why Is Praise Important for Kids?
Oftentimes, we tend to focus on the things our kids are doing wrong that we overlook their efforts to do well in other areas. This can bring negative consequences to their self-image and may hinder them from putting in the effort to be on their best behaviour and accomplish their goals.
No matter how old your kids are, your praise and encouragement will help them feel good about themselves. By praising your kids, you set them off on the right path towards positive behaviour. In the long run, this will also strengthen the bond that you share with your kids.
Praising Kids: 4 Practical Tips to Get It Right
When it comes to getting the right balance when praising, it is the quality of praise that is more important than the quantity.
According to experts, praise can be conveyed in various forms apart from expressing it verbally. Hugs and high-fives can be just as effective in telling your kids that you are proud of them and the efforts that they’ve made.
Paul Donahue, author of Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focussing on What Really Matters; and Jenn Berman, a marriage and family therapist and author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy and Confident Kids, offer the following tips for parents to help them set off on the right path to praising their kids:
1. Be Specific
When you praise your kids, make sure to be as specific and descriptive as possible when pointing out the things that they did right.
According to Berman, being specific helps to make things clear to your kids and they’d be able to identify the areas that they are good at based on your comments.
So, instead of just saying, “Good job!” when complimenting your child for a nicely written essay, you can say something like, “I like the way you begin your essay by describing the problem and explaining why it’s important.”
2. Be Sincere
When we offer praise, it should always be genuine, using words that come from our hearts.
“Kids will have a way of knowing when your praise is insincere, and when it is, you lose trust. Worse yet, they become insecure because they don’t believe your positive words, and they find difficulty in telling the difference between when you really mean it and when you don’t,” Berman says.
On the other hand, Donahue emphasises that when parents offer words of encouragement to their children – and mean the words they say – this will give kids the assurance that their parents recognise the value of their hard work and are aware that they’d gone to great lengths to accomplish those goals.
3. Encourage Them to Try Something New
As parents, we want our kids to be brave when it comes to trying new things and not be held back by their fears of making mistakes or dealing with setbacks. According to Donahue, the key to embed this behaviour in our kids’ minds is to praise them for trying new things while encouraging them to keep up with their efforts.
4. It’s the Process that Counts
When praising and encouraging kids, it is important for parents to recognise their kids’ efforts to push themselves and work hard to achieve a goal. After all, don’t we feel motivated to push ourselves further knowing that there are people around us who appreciate our efforts?
Donahue, who widely believes in this stance, emphasises that it is the process, not the end product that matters.
“Not all kids will be fantastic athletes or brilliant students or accomplished musicians. But children who learn to work hard and persevere have a special talent,” he said.
Suggested Reading: 5 Values to Teach Your Kids Before They Turn 5