Praising Your Child: When It Is Too Much?

Praising your child is essential to parenting, as it helps nurture their self-esteem and confidence. However, there’s a fine line between healthy and excessive praise, which can have unintended negative consequences. Learn where that line falls and strategies to avoid excessively praising your child.

Key takeaways:
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    Praising your child is a powerful tool for nurturing their self-esteem, motivation, and overall development.
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    It is crucial to strike a balance and avoid overpraising, which can have unintended negative consequences.
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    Ultimately, the goal of praise is to empower children to believe in themselves, embrace challenges, and develop intrinsic motivation.
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    By using praise effectively, parents can provide the support and guidance necessary for their child's long-term success and happiness.

Understanding overpraise

Praise is a beneficial tool for supporting your child, helping them develop self-esteem, and encouraging them. However, sometimes praise can be too much and veer into overpraise. Overpraise is an excessive or exaggerated form of recognition or admiration that often lacks specificity, relies on inflated compliments, and places too much emphasis on outcomes rather than the process or effort invested.

Genuine praise focuses on acknowledging specific achievements, efforts, or improvements in a sincere and meaningful manner. It recognizes the child's authentic strengths and encourages further growth. On the other hand, overpraise tends to be excessive, generic, and lacking in specific feedback. It may stem from the parent's desire to boost the child's self-esteem or even seek validation for their own parenting.

The risks of overpraising

While it might seem like there’s no such thing as a bad amount of praise, overpraising a child carries several risks that parents should be aware of.

Unrealistic expectations and unnecessary pressure

When children are constantly showered with exaggerated praise, they may develop an inflated sense of their abilities and believe that success should come effortlessly. This can set them up for disappointment and frustration in the future when they encounter challenges or failures, as they may struggle to cope with setbacks that don't align with the constant praise they’re used to receiving.

Diminished intrinsic motivation

Overpraised children may become reliant on external validation and approval, rather than developing a genuine passion for learning and self-improvement. When praise becomes the primary motivator, they may lose sight of their own intrinsic interests and desires, leading to a diminished sense of autonomy and personal drive. They may seek constant reassurance and validation from others, struggling to develop a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence that comes from within.

Impaired self-esteem

When children are praised excessively and insincerely, they may begin to doubt the authenticity of the praise and question their actual abilities. They may begin to notice a discrepancy between the praise they hear and the actual quality of what they’ve done. This can undermine their self-perception and lead to a lack of confidence in their own skills and achievements.

The benefits of appropriate praise

Although overpraise has its drawbacks, that doesn’t mean you should avoid praising your children altogether. When used appropriately, praise can have a multitude of positive effects on a child's development and well-being.

Enhanced self-esteem and self-worth

When children receive specific and genuine praise, it reinforces their sense of competence and value, thus helping them build self-esteem. They develop a positive perception of themselves, believing in their abilities and approaching challenges with confidence.

Increased motivation and engagement

When children receive appropriate recognition for their efforts, they feel validated and encouraged to continue striving for success. Praise acts as a powerful motivator, igniting their passion and dedication toward their goals. It instills a sense of pride and satisfaction in their work, making them more engaged and committed to their tasks.

Improved resilience and perseverance

By receiving praise for their efforts and progress, rather than outcomes, children develop a growth mindset. They understand that challenges are opportunities for learning and growth, and setbacks are a natural part of the process. This mindset fosters resilience, encouraging them to persist in the face of obstacles and bounce back from failures.

Strengthened parent-child relationship

When parents recognize and appreciate their child's accomplishments, it creates a positive and nurturing environment. Children feel supported, understood, and valued by their parents. This strengthens the bond between parents and children, fostering a sense of connection, trust, and open communication.

Tips for effective praise

Providing effective praise involves finding the right balance between acknowledging and encouraging your child's achievements without overdoing it. Here are some practical tips for using praise effectively:

Focus on effort, progress, and improvement

Emphasize the process rather than just the outcome. Acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and resilience your child demonstrated in reaching their goals. This approach cultivates a growth mindset, where they understand that progress and learning are more important than achieving perfection.

Be specific and sincere

Instead of offering generic compliments, highlight specific aspects of your child's efforts, accomplishments, or improvements. This specificity helps them understand what they did well and encourages them to continue those positive behaviors.

Use praise as a tool for building resilience and problem-solving skills

Instead of praising only when things go smoothly, also acknowledge their ability to overcome challenges and learn from failures. Help them see setbacks as opportunities for growth and problem solving, fostering their resilience and perseverance.

Encourage self-assessment and self-praise

Teach your child to evaluate their own efforts and achievements. Ask them questions that encourage them to recognize their progress and set their own goals. By developing self-awareness and self-reflection, they become less reliant on external validation and more intrinsically motivated.

Avoid comparison with others

Focus on your child's individual progress and growth rather than comparing them to their peers or siblings. Each child has their own unique strengths and abilities, and comparisons can undermine their self-esteem and breed unhealthy competition.

Balance praise with constructive feedback and encouragement

By providing specific and constructive feedback, parents can guide their children toward areas of improvement and help them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Further, offering encouragement alongside feedback empowers children to persevere through challenges and fosters a growth mindset that values continuous learning and improvement.

By understanding the risks of overpraise and implementing effective praise strategies, parents can create a supportive environment that fosters their child's growth and well-being.


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