The Do’s & Don’ts of Praising Your Kids

The Do’s & Don’ts of Praising Your Kids

“Praise your children more than you correct them. Praise them for even their smallest achievement.” – Ezra Taft Benson

Plenty of discussions and arguments have been made till date about finding the right balance while praising the kids. No wonder, parents often find themselves stuck in a mental dilemma that “how much is too much” or “how much is too little?” Experts in the field are of the opinion that when it comes to praise, the quality superseding the quantity may be the answer.

At this juncture, we, from the dais of Excelsior American School, one of the top schools in Gurgaon, would like to assert to our respectable parent community several do’s and don’ts to be considered before praising your kids. Read on.

  • Praise the process, not the product!

Remember that in the case of praise, it is the process that matters, not the product. Kids must be praised for their endeavors and hard work and not merely for their wins or accomplishments. We have seen that kids who learn to work hard go a long way in registering huge feats in life.

  • Don’t employ the comparison benchmark

A simple and straightforward technique that is often adopted by parents to praise their kids is to compare their accomplishments with their fellow peers and siblings casually. However, according to Joyce Nolan Harrison, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre, instead of inspiring kids, this methodology fosters an unwarranted sense of competition among them. Hence, keep in mind that comparison should be a big No-No when it comes to praising your little ones.

  • Praise should be an explanatory acknowledgment

The term ‘descriptive feedback’ was coined by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in the year 1980 in their parenting book ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.’ The term means that instead of ‘applauding’ the action of your child, parents must ‘explain’ it! The justification is that kids start directing their actions and efforts towards just getting parents’ approval instead of reaching up until achievement. Here, a self-explicatory example could be – “When asked “What did you do in your creativity class today?” a majority of kids might either prefer staying silent or responding in just a few words. However, if instead, you say, “I noticed a wonderfully penned poem in your backpack!” it is more likely to invite a detailed narrative of their thought process behind the poem.

  • Praise not just perfection but missteps as well

Michelle Macias, MD, an associate professor of South Carolina in Charleston and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Paediatrics, opines that mistakes are part and parcel of the learning and growth cycle. Thus, encourage the kids to persevere when things don’t go their way and learn even from their errors and faults. Tell them it’s a part of the process, and it not just serves as a practice but is also the best way to hone their skills.

  • Praise must sound sincere

Many researchers are of the same opinion that kids can sense when praise is not genuine. They have a way of knowing when appreciation is insincere. They don’t believe your words, and thus you lose their trust. Also, they become insecure and confused and experience trouble telling the difference between when you really mean it and when you don’t.

  • Not always and never too much

At Excelsior American School, recognized among the top schools in Gurgaon, we firmly believe that parents must avoid showering praises in heaps and bounds all the time on kids. Moreover, it is necessary to ensure that the praises are not superfluous. Such scenarios may lead to various issues because then the kids will primarily focus on maintaining an image of perfection at all times. They’ll start believing that they have to maintain their praise-worthy status. As a result, they will prefer to run away from taking risks and will always keep hold of the fear of falling short. Infinite study material available in the research done by protagonists in the field indicates that such kids appear less confident in their answers. Their goal becomes just to look good in front of other people. They become highly sensitive to failure and are less willing to share their ideas. They end up choosing safer routes to ensure that they always come out on top. Also, they are more likely to give up in challenging circumstances or assignments.

  • Avoid praising the inherent natural traits

According to Shari Young Kuchenbecker, Ph.D., a child development consultant and a psychologist in Los Angeles, while praising the kids, it is vital to be kept in mind not to praise the God-gifted or built-in talents. Instead, the focus must be more on the aspects that are within the kid’s control, such as solving maths problems repeatedly, even after failing at them a few times. Applaud their hard work and not their intrinsic smartness!

  • Praise when they deserve

One should not praise just for the sake of it. It might do more harm than doing good. Rather parents must take note when kids go the extra mile and put in special efforts to overcome challenges or feel timid in difficult situations. Accordingly, use the praise card for further garnering their endeavors.

Following are a few interesting reads and references associated with the subject :

  1. Henderlong J, Lepper MR’s ‘The effects of praise on children’s intrinsic motivation: A review and synthesis.’ Psychological Bulletin 2002




Synopsizing, we, at Excelsior American School, one of the top schools in Gurgaon, really hope that parents, teachers, and anybody reading this blog would find it helpful in understanding the do’s and don’ts of praising the kids. If used diligently, it’s an excellent tool to boost their motivation and self-esteem.

So, the next time you want to praise your kid by saying, “You did very well!” try saying, “I love the solution you came up with!” Likewise, instead of saying, “What an awesome painting!” say, “I like the way you are using different colors in this drawing!” or try replacing “You are so good just like your sister!” with “You are good at playing this game.”

If the info mentioned above can be of assistance to you in any way, we, at Excelsior American School, would consider our ultimate mission to put kids’ growth on the fast track a vital success!