how is your child responding to the praise they receive?

How is your child responding to the praise they receive?

When Praise does More Harm Than Good

From The Happy Child set of talks and materials


We all want to offer our children encouragement to do well, and well-meaning praise is a big part of this.  But be careful of how you deliver this praise, and the focus of it.  As you ask yourself; “How is your child responding to the praise they receive?”

Is your praise encouraging you child to keep trying… or to be quick to give up?

If you credit success to something your child is in control of; the effort they have put in, the time they spent trying or the different methods they attempted; they become more optimistic in their outlook.  When they hit difficulties, they know they can put more effort in, try again or do something different. 

However, if you credit their success to external factors, or things they are not in control of; they are super strong, they are so clever, or faster than everyone else; children tend to be pessimistic. They are more likely to give up quickly when they encounter difficulties.  Fearing they have reached the limits of their abilities, and reluctant to push their luck any further.

Optimistic children tend to work longer on difficult problems, learning more through the experience

They tend to be healthier, recovering quicker from illness, and in general, achieve better grades and score higher in exams.  These perceptions established in early childhood continue through the teenage years and on into adulthood, as they continue to remain optimistic.  While those who have been quick to give up, tend to remain near the bottom.

Failure does not stop us succeeding, but our perception of failure and what we choose to do with it does. 

The language we surround our children with is also feeding into our children’s sense of worth, and their belief in how well they measure up to expectations. 

Consciously or unconsciously, when we talk about how rich, clever, thin, successful or popular a person is… and the list goes on… this can become tied to the worth we credit them with.  The trouble comes when your child hears this and links it to their own feelings of worthiness, connecting this to their own ideas of self-respect, value and ultimately self-esteem.

Fuelled by the comments surrounding them, children are asking themselves whether they measure up

Conditional qualities imply that we must prove our value according to these conditions.  If our value needs to be earnt, it can go up or down and it can even be lost. If we do this to our children, implying the need to constantly prove themselves, it can instil a feeling of anxiousness about who they are, and every decision being made, and action taken. 

Not knowing or not being able is just a stage, a part of learning we pass through on the way to competency

Your child’s abilities – or their temporary lack of them – is simply a phase that they need to work at and process through as they develop their skills.  It says nothing of the person they are or who they can become.  While you would never consider this a character fault, a lack of potential or proof of a challenge that should be abandoned, the language you use with them may be doing just that.

So as you speak to your child, especially when you are offering them encouragement; think about how your child is responding to the praise they receive. What is it that you are praising? And could your praise be doing more harm than good?


Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.   www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk

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