Raising Confident Children with Praise
The right kind of praise can help build up a child’s sense of self and confidence. However, the wrong kind of praise will actually be detrimental to the development of a child. The words, “Good boy!” “Great job!” or “That was wonderful!” does not provide constructive praise. This kind of praise is “lazy praise” since it really does not give the child any value.
There is one school of thought that encourages the giving out of praise. There is also another that fears that too much praise can spoil a child. So, how much and what kind of praise can help build confident individuals without necessarily building kids that are spoiled with praise?
One important thing is that praise should not be manipulative – given only when a child makes us feel good of gives us what we want. Rather, praise should be given to highlight a child’s good behavior and to encourage that behavior.
Here are some ways to give “proper” praise:
Focus on the process and the effort, rather than the outcome. Instead of saying “Good job!’ (which highlights the results), say, “Thank you for your hard work and effort!” A child should be able to know why they did well in order for them to know how to do it the next time. Focusing on results will diminish the value of praise, especially if the next result is a failure. The child will tend to feel the pressure to produce the same results. Acknowledging effort will encourage the child to be ready to accept new and tougher challenges as well as encourage them to work harder.
Avoid giving too much praise. Lavishing praise can either turn children into praise junkies who crave for more praise or who no longer find the praise of any value. According to a research made by Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller of Columbia University, too much praise can result in a child who is less confident of their actions and responses, who is fearful about sharing ideas and who shun difficult assignments.
Don’t praise a child for areas which are not in their control. This includes talents and abilities that are innate in a child – intellect, artistic or musical talent or athletic ability. Praising a child for intelligence will teach the child that any failure is caused by a lack of intelligence (“I failed, therefore, I must be stupid.”). This kind of praise may be harmful to the child and may necessitate Provo counseling at a later age.
Praising kids for their natural ability and intelligence may result in children who are more wary of challenges and more fearful of failure. Also, praising someone for their natural ability gives the child a sense of helplessness. Praise the child for behavior they can control and can be responsible for. This includes being disciplined, showing focus, being generous, respectful or hardworking. That way, they know that they can step up on the level of their efforts and see improvements.
Let your child see the natural consequences and results of their performance. Especially with children at a young age, praise may not even be necessary at all. You just need to point out what they were able to accomplish and this accomplishment will provide the praise. For instance, if a young child was able to tie his shoelaces, you simply need to say, “Look, you did it all by yourself.”
Be specific. Saying “Good job.” does not really tell the child what he did well. Rather, use praise that describes the behavior you want the child to learn. Rather, say things like, “I like the way you worked hard at finishing that assignment.” Or, “I appreciate your being able to control your temper.”
Be sincere and truthful. Rather than being helpful, insincere praise can, in fact, be damaging to a child. A child knows whether he did or did not do well. If he notices you praising him because you feel sorry for him, your praise will have little effect on him.
Avoid giving praise for achievements that came with little or no effort. This can send out the message that you don’t really care or don’t have an understanding of what the child does.
Never compare the child to other kids. Instead, focus on how well the child behaved or worked towards mastering a skill. Comparing other children brings the focus towards competition between the children, rather than in mastering a skill. This kind of comparison breeds children who are devastated at losing and whose motivation is lost when they also lose their competitive edge.
Giving the right kind of praise is a communication skill and it is a skill that is not learned overnight. You may need to go for family counseling in Utah to become more adept in your communication with your child. Utah counseling can also help thresh out issues with communication between parents and children.