Praise can be a double-edged sword when it comes to bringing up children. If there is not enough then children may grow up lacking in confidence and self-esteem. On the other hand, too much praise could spawn egotistical know-it-alls who are unable to deal with criticism and the tough situations of life.
Modern parents do praise their children much more than parents in the past. Today’s mothers and fathers praise their children generously, believing that it encourages a nurtured upbringing and promotes self-worth and confidence.
But is going overboard with accolades actually contributing to your child’s character and ability to handle the future? According to experts and research, it depends on many factors such as age, the way you dish out these compliments and the reasons for doing it. Here are some guidelines to follow when it comes to praising your child.
- Mean it: Kids have a good radar for insincerity, so if they doubt the basis for the praise you are giving them, it could make them feel insecure. Make sure that you praise your child reasonably. For example, don’t go overboard over every little accomplishment. The positive effects of approval are negated if profuse praise becomes commonplace between the two of you. The exception is young babies under two–praise them lavishly when they try new things independently.
- Have a reason: Don’t use sweeping statements of praise to continuously up your child’s morale. It’s better to concentrate on specific good traits that he or she has displayed, or on concrete tasks with which they have done well. This will reinforce their sense of accomplishment on a job well done.
- Elaborate on what: Rather than use generic terms such as ‘well done’, show your interest by describing the reasons why you think your child has done a good job. This kind of feedback can also be useful if you have constructive criticism that you’d like to convey to help them. If they sense you are being honest with them with praise, they are likely to feel more pumped up about it.
- Don’t put emphasis on winning or losing: Overly praising a child’s intelligence can put added pressure on them to always live up to your expectations and inculcate a fear of failure. Children should understand that sometimes failure is a part of life that can be dealt with. They should be comfortable facing challenges and shouldn’t shy away from them. So, praising your children for their effort and determination and not the end result is a good way to build their confidence when it comes to dealing with obstacles.
- Too much praise can be a bore: If you continuously praise your child for activities or deeds he enjoys doing, it could actually be a deterrent for them to continue with the behaviour. Praise is best when it is not contrived. If a child knows that folding his clothes is a surefire route to a monologue of appreciation, he may start seeing it as a boring chore that he isn’t obliged to do.
- Don’t compare: Your child may beat his best friend on his mid-term math test…this term. When we use comparison to praise children, the whole module is very likely to backfire when the tables are turned. This can be a blow to your child’s self-esteem when he doesn’t finish first — a bad lesson for real life and dealing with failure. Children shouldn’t let competition with peers be the focus of doing well; rather their focus should be on the goal at hand. Competing with others doesn’t only lead to negative emotions such as jealously, it can also make them lose focus on what is really important.
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