Proper ways to praise children


While the concept of parents praising their children may seem nice and/or convenient, most parents may not realize that it can actually be harmful to their kids. It is always a good thing for parents to encourage their children; however, parents should be careful with how and what they are saying to praise their kids because, believe it or not, praise can be addictive.

In some cases praise will simply motivate children to find ways to receive more approval. For example, a young girl putting on her shoes all by herself is praised as smart and then proceeds to take off and put on her shoes repeatedly in an effort to garner more praise. It also creates the problem of emphasizing the importance of adoration rather than emphasizing learning. Parents should be wary of this as it can worsen, becoming intense enough that it hinders kids from taking chances, for example raising their hand in class, for fear of looking bad.

Ultimately, parents should note that praise can be both good and bad, motivating or hindering. The following tips suggest how parents would go about praising their children while simultaneously inspiring them.

1. Praise the process:

a. Research has found that the way children are praised affects their mindset, making it either fixed or growing, along with their likelihood to take on challenges, persevere and succeed in school. Children with fixed mindsets believe that attributes such as intelligence, character and creative ability are unchangeable and thus, no matter how hard they study or work, nothing will change, prompting them to avoid challenges. Children with growth mindset see the brain as a muscle that can grow with assets that can be nurtured with hard work and will subsequently thrive on challenges.

2. To encourage a growth mindset, try specifically praising the strategy and effort of the child. For example, instead of saying the child is creative, let them know they found a good way to do a certain thing.

3. Be honest:

a. As children grow they will become more suspicious of praise, with children scrutinizing praise for truth and hidden agendas. Studies have found that the more children or teens are praised, the worse off they tend to be because they realize rather than being praised for doing a good job they are being praised simply because someone feels they need encouragement.

b. When praising a child or teen, be sincere. Don’t offer positive praise for a job well done when it truthfully wasn’t a good job. Offer authentic praise for real achievements instead.

4. Lay off the praise:

a. Rather than praising everything a child does, comment on it or observe it. This lets the child know that their parents are watching and paying attention to them, allowing them to feel important and affirmed

b. For example, to acknowledge effort and encourage a child, try pointing out what they did and provide feedback. Rather than saying “Wow that is a gorgeous picture!” try “Wow, you finished your picture! Those clouds are big!”

For teens and children, praise can make a huge difference in how they see the world. If praised too much, children may develop a fixed mindset, cultivating feelings of hopelessness and futility, which may lead to depression or substance abuse.

If your child or teen is suffering from a mental health disorder or substance abuse, please seek help to get him or her to a happier, healthier state of mind. To learn more about treatment for teen boys you can visit or call 866-520-0905 for more information.

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