Sometimes if feels like we as parents spend so much time disciplining, correcting, scolding, saying “no”, or trying to get our children to simply listen to us. When moments of greatness occur, how can we best praise our children to secure more moments of greatness?
I just finished reading Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. While my feelings are very mixed about the book, it did present some interesting perspectives on parenting. One of my favorite quotes from the book was this:
“Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.” ― Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Wouldn’t it seem that praising our children for being smart, funny, great at soccer, etc. would lead to higher self-esteem? Not entirely… read on!
The inverse power of praise
When the praise is the reward for a job well done, we are actually training children to ignore any enjoyment they might have otherwise derived from that task. We really should be praising our childs effort not their intelligence.
For example, if your child is coloring a picture, saying something like, “I love how you used so many shades of green,” is praising their effort but saying”You’re such a great artist” is focusing on intelligence. I think we’re all guilty of overpraising! The book ‘Nurture Shock‘ by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explores this ‘inverse power of praise’ along with examining how modern strategies for nurturing children often backfire.
From the book, Nurture Shock
… When they get to college, heavily praised students commonly drop out of classes rather than suffer a mediocre grade, and they have a hard time picking a major—they’re afraid to commit to something because they’re afraid of not succeeding.”
The book offers the advice that all praise is not bad, it just needs to be more specific and not a lame attempt to boost the child’s ego. Here’s a list of 15 examples of how to best praise your kids. Alter them to fit your unique situations, but see how they respond!
15 Ways to Praise
- What an imagination you have!
- You’re working really hard at that
- You’re a good friend
- You’ve made great progress on that
- That was really thoughtful of you!
- Amazing effort with ____
- You’re a great example to others
- You should be proud of yourself
- You deserve a hug
- I love how that turned out!
- What a great listener you were at the store
- You’re so kind to others
- Super job at ____ today!
- Thanks for being honest
- I like how you followed the directions