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The Right Way to Praise Your Kids

When it comes to praise, quality over quantity may be the answer to building kids' self-esteem.
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The ABCs of Praise continued...

"I believe that we want children who are self-motivated," Berman says. "If you tell your daughter, 'If you get an A on the test I'll give you $5,' then you are creating a situation in which your child is motivated by money, not by the positive feelings of success."

While offering your kids cash incentives isn't a smart idea, you should embrace opportunities to celebrate their hard work and achievements. "Going out for ice cream or a special meal after a good report card or musical performance or some other achievement is a way of celebrating children's hard work and persistence," Donahue says.

Tips for Giving Practical Praise

Praising your kids is an important part of building their self-esteem and confidence. But before you break out in applause, there are some important dos and don'ts to keep in mind that will help your child find value in your words of encouragement:

Be specific. Instead of saying, "You're such a good baseball player," say, "You hit the ball really hard and you are an excellent first baseman." Being specific is much better and helps kids identify with their special skill, Berman says.

Be genuine. Praise should always be genuine. Kids have a way of knowing when your praise is insincere, and when it is, you lose trust. Worse yet, they become insecure because they don't believe your positive words, and they find difficulty in telling the difference between when you really mean it and when you don't, Berman says.

Encourage new activities. "Praise kids for trying new things, like learning to ride a bike or tie their shoelaces, and for not being afraid to make mistakes," Donahue says.

Don't praise the obvious. "Try not to overdo praise about a child's attributes: 'You're so smart, handsome, pretty, bright, talented, gifted,'" Donahue says. "Parents and grandparents are, of course, going to indulge in some of this, and that is OK. But if your kids hear a constant litany of praise, it will begin to sound empty to them and have little meaning."

Say it when you mean it. Saying, "Good job," when you mean it or, "Boy, you really worked hard on that paper," tells children that, as parents, you recognize the value of their hard work and efforts, Donahue says. It also tells them that you know the difference between when they work hard at something and when it comes easy.

Focus on the process. Praise children for their effort and hard work, not for their inherent talents. Donahue says, "Remember, it's the process not the product that matters. Not all kids will be fantastic athletes or brilliant students or accomplished musicians. But children who learn to work hard and persevere have a special talent. As I like to say, pluggers go far in life."

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Reviewed on December 02, 2012
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