Why praise shouldn't be demonized

Parenting Styles   |   Age: 1 year 8 months

Why praise shouldn't be demonized

Did your baby do something amazing - or at least pretty cool - today? Probably, right? She is growing every day, and if she climbed the stairs, put on her socks, or asked for her breakfast using a complete sentence, she is using skills she might not have had at all just a few short months, weeks, or even days ago. For some parents, this parade of new accomplishments can feel like it needs the accompanying sound-track of their praise and encouragement, but others are a little bit more shy with their compliments.

The argument around praise

Praising children and toddlers for jobs well-done seems like it should be a no-brainer, and for many parents, it is. “Good job,” is a pretty common phrase around the playground, but some studies, and some child behavior experts have concerns about the seemingly harmless phrase. Some research around children’s reactions to praise suggests that certain types of praise, including “good job,” can actually hurt children’s self-esteem, and discourage them from taking risks, while other types of praise can be more beneficial.

Positive, helpful praise

The praise that’s the most likely to have a positive impact on your child, whether it’s person praise or process praise, is praise that’s sincere and specific. As they get older, children start to take in the praise in a more critical way - praise that they perceive as insincere or over the top might not have the positive effect a parent wants, and could even be bad for self-esteem.

Praise that’s specific, or even just noticing specific things, or asking specific questions, can be both more helpful and more significant for children without falling into the traps critics of person praise worry about, like setting up an image of themselves for children to try to live up to.

In the end, the difference between person praise and process praise can be helpful as a way for parents to think more actively about the messages they send their children with their praise, especially if focusing on the process helps parents to be more specific, and more sincere, even if that means turning down the volume on praise a little. By the age of 12, though, one study shows no real difference in children’s reactions to person praise as opposed to process praise.


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