What is your normal reaction to your children showing you their “masterpieces”? Praise and delight, I guess. Children need your praise and approval because they want to be the best. However, if you give a positive assessment of everything that the child does, you’ll badly affect their self-esteem. If you don’t praise them, the kids will be very upset.
What should parents do in such a tricky situation? Read more to find out the answer.
What’s the problem
Parents tend to overpraise the achievements of their children. My guess is, you often praise your kid for nothing or call them the best of the best. It goes without saying that a child needs praise for normal development as it motivates them and reaffirms their social status. Nonetheless, do it too much, and it loses its value.
The desire to praise your child and strengthen their self-esteem is understandable but is not always right. It’s possible that quite the opposite effect might be achieved – the child becomes praise addicted. This leads to the development of an inferiority complex, and the arising of an obsessive desire to seek confirmation of their significance. Sounds awful, right?
What’s the science
A study in Social Psychological and Personality Science journal showed that excessive praise negatively affects kids’ mental condition – making them insecure, less resilient, and less capable of coping with difficulties.
During the study, Korean scientists conducted a survey among primary school children and their parents. Each child had to fill out 2 forms. The first concerned the adequacy of parental assessment, and the second concerned the symptoms of possible depression.
Analysis of the data showed that accurate praise positively affects the development and psychological health of the child. The same cannot be said of under- or overpraising children’s abilities.
“The current work examined the conditions under which parental praise leads to higher academic achievement and better psychological health in schoolchildren. We tested the hypothesis that perceptions of accurate praise, both by parents and by children, are associated with outcomes optimal for children.
Our results showed that parents’ perceptions of over- or underpraising (vs. accurately praising) their children’s schoolwork predicted poorer school performance and higher depression in children. From children’s perspectives, perceived under- and overpraise by parents predicted poorer school performance and higher depression. However, when children felt that their parents’ praise was slightly (but not majorly) overstated, this had at least as beneficial effects as when they felt the praise accurately reflected reality. For parents and educators, these results underline the importance of basing praise of children on actual performance and the need to pay careful attention to how praise is perceived by the child”.
There must be a middle ground
Finding middle ground is not an easy task in such a sensitive issue as praise. On one hand, you need to show your child a good attitude and support their positive aspirations. On the other hand, it’s important to keep a balance. Some psychologists advise refraining from evaluative praise if the child is overly interested in other people’s opinions.
Here is a list of recommendations for giving appropriate praise:
- Keep in mind, that the more difficult the task, the more support your kid needs.
- Don’t skimp on feedback! Try to provide it as quickly as possible.
- Motivate your child to be guided by their inner feelings in order to avoid addiction to other people’s opinions.
- Try to avoid using words “brilliant”, “excellent”, “wonderful” too often.
- Appreciate the child’s uniqueness and treat them as a person.
- Show your kid that your love is unconditional.
- Always pay attention to the efforts of your child. Try to make them understand that there is a link between outcome and effort.
- Focus on the progress of the child.
- Never compare your child with other children.
- Don’t forget about sincerity. Children feel when the praise is sincere, and when not. Fake compliments are the reason for distrust.
- Encourage initiative and self-reliance.
- Don’t forget to thank the child for their good deeds.
- Encourage your child to complete a difficult task. Explain to them that you understand how difficult the task is.
- Don’t promise your child that one day they will become famous. After all, they will be very upset if you can’t fulfill promises.
- If you’ve already praised the child for some achievement, don’t tell them later that, in fact, it wasn’t so significant.
- Be sure to accompany your praise with tenderness, hugs and a smile. Kids should feel your sincerity and warmth. By the way, psychologists advise kissing your child at least three times a day.
And finally, keep in mind that praise, love, and education are the three main components of your kid’s future success. Unfortunately, modern parents don’t always have enough time to be fully engaged in the educational process of their children. Not that they have to! Nicola Read2Play is an app designed to develop a love of reading, presenting educational material in a fun and enjoyable way. Learn more about this app here.