We’re all guilty of it from time-to-time, praising a child for almost everything they do. But according to Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, author of Praising Boys Well and Praising Girls Well, overpraising a child can lead to problems down the track.
7 Ways To Effectively Praise Your Child
In fact she believes over-praising can make them hooked on celebration and success instead of being satisfied by their own accomplishments, whether these are big or small.
1. Try not to go overboard
Avoid gushing over everyday achievements says Elizabeth; it may cause your child to discount praise that they have truly earned. It might also cause them to feel as though they have to constantly do things to impress you. For example, when your toddler uses the loo for the first time this is a big deal so praise lavishly, but don’t do it every time or it won’t mean as much.
2. Focus on the action not the child
Little children often can’t distinguish between who they are and what they do. So instead of commending your child saying they were ‘good at the shops’ praise the action, for example, ‘you were very helpful and well-mannered at the shops today’. This helps children understand that it was their behaviour that earned them praise.
3. Honesty is the best policy
Even young children can see through fake praise, so always tell the truth. It’s best to be honest and diplomatic when commenting on your child’s ability. Say if your child is trying to learn how to do a cartwheel and doesn’t quite get there, don’t lie and tell them it was great. Let them know you’re proud they’re working on it. This way you’re being truthful and letting them know they have your attention.
4. Talk up your child at home
Be mindful about praising in public because it’s not only cringeworthy for everyone around you, but it also puts heaps of pressure on your child to perform. They might also feel embarrassed. Try praising them a lot at home and talk up achievements with other family members. Just be mindful that siblings might get jealous if you go over the top in their presence!
5. Be specific not generic
When praising a work of art be sure to point out specific points instead of saying ‘wow that’s wonderful’. Try to let your child know you’re taking notice of their work by commenting on the patterns or colours and this may encourage them to continue with more things that they enjoy.
6. Non-verbal clues
You can’t always give praise verbally, especially if they’re playing sport or performing on stage. Try using body language to express your approval. Maybe give them a fist pump, an exaggerated smile or an air high five to show you’re proud of their accomplishment.
7. Avoid sarcasm – kids won’t get it
While many parents are fluent in sarcasm, most young children don’t get adult humour, sarcasm or rhetorical questions. If your child is particularly sensitive they might think you’re criticising them or pointing out a failure. Consider praising their achievement in a positive way, as kids are often easily offended.