Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Select An Article
Font Size

The Right Way to Praise Your Kids

When it comes to praise, quality over quantity may be the answer to building kids' self-esteem.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

A lot of moms and dads struggle with finding the right balance when it comes to praising their kids: How much is too much? How much is too little? Is quantity that important, or is it the quality of praise that really matters?

While there's no secret formula, experts say understanding the when, where, and how of praising is an important tool in raising confident kids with a healthy sense of self-esteem.

How Parents Typically Praise

Parents everywhere praise their kids when they do well in school, win a ball game, or build an impressive sandcastle, anything that seems to be something remarkable -- and, in many cases, anything that's just plain old vanilla.

Jenn Berman, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy and Confident Kids, says, "We are becoming praise junkies as parents. We've gone to the opposite extreme of a few decades ago when parents tended to be more strict. And now we overpraise our children."

By giving kids heaping portions of praise, parents think they're building their children's confidence and sense of self, when, in fact, it may be just the opposite.

"Somehow, parents have come to believe that by praising their kids they improve their self-esteem," Paul Donahue, PhD, founder and director of Child Development Associates, says. "Though well-intentioned, putting kids on a pedestal at an early age can actually hinder their growth."

Too much praise can backfire, it seems, and, when given in a way that's insincere, make kids afraid to try new things or take a risk for fear of not being able to stay on top where their parent's praise has put them.

"There is something about praising your child constantly that is belittling," Berman says. "There's an underlying message that the child has to get his parent's approval all the time and constantly look to the parent for validation."

Still, don't go too far in the other direction. Not giving enough praise can be just as damaging as giving too much. Kids will feel like they're not good enough or that you don't care and, as a result, may see no point in stretching themselves for their accomplishments.

So what is the right amount of praise? Experts say that the quality of praise is more important than the quantity. If praise is sincere and genuine and focused on the effort not the outcome, you can give it as often as your child does something that warrants a verbal reward.

The ABCs of Praise

"We should especially recognize our children's efforts to push themselves and work hard to achieve a goal," says Donahue, author of Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing on What Really Matters. "One thing to remember is that it's the process not the end product that matters."

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

family walking on the beach
Slideshow
two boys in a swing
Article
 
mistakes_parents_make_with_toddlers_2.jpg
Article
woman with cleaning products
Slideshow
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow