In this world of soft parenting, it is curious that we would have to be reminded about the importance of praising a child. While children today often have less consequences and more stuff to collect than ever, there are also many more expectations upon today’s child than there were just a decade ago. If you look at the typical elementary or middle school educational curriculum, you will see that children are learning faster than ever. Many of the subjects that were saved for high school are now being introduced a good 8 years earlier and sports and competitive venues for very young children are more high pressure than ever. Yes, in order for a child to be the best, which is every parent’s desire – they have to get an edge, which means starting things in life at a very young and tender age. In order to drive them, many techniques are used to push them to their limits so they can break out of their box as a leader. Unfortunately, praise is often the last to be offered.

For every parent that doesn’t use enough praise, there are those that use too much. If you have every watched American Idol or any other talent show, it is obvious that millions of people are the victims of foolery by parental praise. While mother’s love may be blind – it certainly isn’t deaf and some of those poor contestants are embarrassing themselves because their families are too fearful to tell them the truth. This can be the result of excess praise. Other downfalls to excess praise are having children who are not motivated by normal means. In order to get them to do something, they have to have an ego rub that far out-stretches the truth of their situation and abilities giving them a false sense of security and obscuring who they really are. Apparently, the trick in the importance of praising a child is balance!

Praising a child is always truthful. Over indulging a child every time they burp, creates a kid that is craving your approval. Instead, try to react as naturally as possible when they do something good. Children are also very adept at knowing when a parent is praising them for something they didn’t do. If they baked dad a birthday cake and you didn’t allow them to truly help to their ability, then praise them for it – you will be essentially lying and it won’t make a child feel good. Instead, point out what your child did do, and praise them effectively.

Many child psychologists recommend using praise in place of discipline. In fact, kids who are praised for desirable behaviors are more likely to continue them. Why? Because it felt good to be good and to be rewarded for making good decisions. This is true of children at any age. Oppositely, if you discipline and only acknowledge negative behavior children will often ‘act up’ in order to get the attention they need. They may start to believe that negative attention is better than none. The importance of praising children as a behavioral tool is very easy to implement and is contrast to going over board with every little thing your child does. There are a few simple rules to follow to use praise to encourage good behavior as follows:

  • Be honest and direct. When you notice your child doing something good that makes you proud – tell them right away. For instance “Mary, I am so pleased to see you sharing with your sister so well,” is an effective way to utilize praise.
  • Use your whole body to give praise. Tell them and show them. Don’t become robotic in your delivery of praise and make sure you maintain eye contact and follow up the praise with a hug, pat on the back, wink or something else that is endearing
  • Don’t undermine your praise. With older children especially, it can be difficult to leave out sarcastic or undermining remarks such as “guess you finally got the message after being grounded for two weeks” before delivering the compliment.
  • Make sure you share your child’s good deeds with others. When dad gets home or grandma calls, tell her what your child did.
  • Don’t go OVERBOARD. You want your child to behave properly without having some sort of incentive to do so. If there is a particular area of concern in their behavior that you and they are working on, utilize praise to follow through with your discipline. 3-5 bits of praising a day will keep things in balance.

Constructive criticism never hurt anyone. Especially a child. Make sure if you are offering something negative for them to think about, that you also insert a positive reaction for them. Allow your child to have choices and make good choices in their life by talking about things calmly. Then, when they choose a good behavior over a bad one – make sure you notice. Children are largely habitual and changing their behaviors will not happen over night. However, when you utilize praise they will undoubtedly react more positively because it makes them feel good.

The other thing to consider about the importance of praising a child, is whether or not you are expecting too much. While children need to be pushed so they can find all of their strengths – it is unfair to push them so hard and not praise their accomplishments. As your child gets older, you will begin to praise less because you expect more. This is exactly when they may need it the most. Yet as a parent, you want to make sure that you aren’t sending them a message that they are responsible for your happiness. If you praise them for dancing and dancing alone – yet they aren’t as in to it as they once were – you are ultimately making your child feel responsible for your happiness. The same is true for academic performance. If your child brings home an all B report card – you have to be proud of them for their personal abilities rather than show a tinge of disappointment that they didn’t get any A’s.

Praise is the common denominator in well-adjusted children as long as it is balanced. Of course, it is natural to be proud of your kid and to want them to excel in life. By finding emotional ways to praise them and make them feel good about themselves, they will develop into self-confident adults who trust in others and in themselves.

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