Is there such a thing as too much praise?
It seems like today, there are so many rules, and regulations when it comes to parenting that much of what we do as parents is counter intuitive. Praising a child’s accomplishments is one of those things that come naturally. The first time your newborn held his or her head up, you praised him and called every single person you knew in order to share the milestone. The same thing happened when your child took his or her first steps, used the potty, finished their peas at the dinner table, and drafted their first perfect letter ‘A.” It seems that when it comes to parenting, praise just comes naturally.
But can you praise too much? And have we as parents become so fearful of turning our children into psychopaths that we are now praising out things the wrong way?
Some experts say yes. In fact, today they are saying that how we praise our children really does have an effect on our child’s success in life. According to these experts, our praise should be on the effort rather than the accomplishments. For instance, if your daughter scored three homeruns at her softball game or brought home a straight A report card, parents should praise all the practice, hard work and studying that went into the accomplishment rather than the sum of the hard work. Why? Because by praising the accomplishment and making such a big deal about a straight A report card or 3 homeruns, we begin setting the bar too high for our children and putting undue pressure on them to perform. This supposedly leads to our children feeling that unless they get straight A’s or unless they score homeruns, they won’t be praised. Hmmm.
Experts also suggest that praising the accomplishment will create children that too easily identify their weaknesses. For instance if mom and dad are proud of the A on the social studies test, the assumption for the child is they will be the opposite of proud when the child brings home a C on a science test. Even if the efforts were the same. And the child will then surmise that they aren’t successful at science. While there might be some truth in the lending of this theory, it is also important that children recognize their strengths and weaknesses in life and realize that perfection will not come in all areas.
As a parent, it is important to praise both the effort and the accomplishment. Children need to come to the realization that life will not always be straight A’s and 3 homeruns picture perfect. Holding on to these efforts and accomplishments can truly spark the inner desire for our children to want to do their best. Not because of parental praise, but because of their own personal standards of self worth. After all, you don’t want your child to turn into a successful adult for the sheer sake of pleasing YOU.
While its easy to agree that praising the accomplishment is definitely noteworthy, parents can go overboard. By praising every little tiny thing a child does, you will create a child that looks to you for feelings of self worth. They will do something at school and look to teachers for the same type of praise, and sadly won’t get it. In fact, over praising will cause them to be constantly seeking the approval from others. The truth is that praising your child for a job well done, for hard work and for accomplishment should be part of your daily life. However, it shouldn’t be allowed to exist as the only measure of your child’s self worth.
As you praise your child, teach them that it is okay to admit out loud that they did well. Teach them that they too can be proud of their painting, the way they handled a playmate on the swing set or the way that they performed on a test. When a child learns how to make themselves feel proud (of themselves), they will experience double the pleasure by receiving it inwardly, and outwardly from you.
Obviously, praising your child’s accomplishments is important. In order to get desired behavior – children must be in an environment where desired behavior is both desired and recognized. Parents are naturally excited for their children when they do well in life, and your praise and excitement should not be withheld by any means. Plus, children from a very young age love to know that mom and dad (and others) are super proud of them. Fostering their self-esteem, and helping them forge the desire to do well in life is definitely – in the beginning – a parent’s responsibility. As time goes on and children learn to recognize the efforts that go into accomplishments, praising and offering suggestion about how they can do better ‘next time’ are excellent ways to promote their personal growth.
Bottom line! If you want to grab your child, hug their necks, and tell them they did a wonderful job – you should listen to your intuition and do so. There is a such thing as over thinking parenting, especially when there are so many experts (many who don’t have children themselves) trying to teach us counter intuitive methods to raising our children. Good things, across the entire spectrum of your child’s development, will come from praise.
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” – Oprah Winfrey