How to praise your child to make them successful

Balloon toddlers


Mary Lamb, an English writer, once said ”Children are fed with milk and praise”. And while praise is indeed very important for kids, not every praise is equal. Picture a scenario: your kid comes back from school proudly showing their new drawing. Good job! – you summarize without hesitation, just glancing at the picture. After dinner they encourage you to take a look at the room they have just cleaned.  Wow, nice! – another comment that comes naturally. Even though you must have said those praises with good intentions, there are better ways to build motivation in your child and make them more successful in the future.

Let’s focus for the moment on the importance of praise itself. Apart from other obvious results like raising child’s self-esteem, praise can also play an important part in other areas. According to studies parent praise from 1 to 3-year-olds predicts children’s motivational framework 5 years later. Additionally, it was considered an important factor that helps kids become aware of their values in the eyes of their caregivers.

Praises can be generally divided into two major categories. The expressions like ”wonderful” which are so easy for parents to say are so-called ”generic praises” – usually the ones that can be applied to almost any situation when we want to say something positive about our kid’s accomplishments. It also includes person praise like ”You’re so smart” or ”Good boy!”. On the other hand, there is a second type of praise called ”process praise” or ”non-generic praise”. This type of praise is usually a more descriptive one and focuses on a person’s effort and work rather than their personal traits.

What kind of study is more beneficial then and how does it influence children’s performance? In search for the answer, the scientists have conducted an interesting experiment: they’ve asked fifth-graders to complete a test and then praised their performance. One group of kids was given a person praise, the other one a process praise. Then the kids were given harder tasks and were told that this time they didn’t perform so well.

Guess what?

Kids who were given process praise were more inclined to take part in the more difficult tasks and enjoyed them more comparing to the children who were given a person praise. The process praise also caused an increase in their performance, whereas the person praise made it more difficult for kids to cope with failure. Therefore, praises may lead to your child believing that their ability comes from fixed trait (as a result of a person praise) or that their accomplishments depend on their effort and work (process praise). 

The studies are still not sufficient to talk about the long-term effects of such praises, but there won’t be any harm in updating your praise vocabulary 🙂   So instead of ”Good job” try saying:

– I really liked how you handled this problem!

– You came up with a wonderful solution!

– You must have worked really hard!

– You found really good ways to deal with this issue!

Which kind of praise do you tend to use when speaking to your child? Let us know in the comments on our FB page!



Thanks for reading and see you next week!

Magdalena | Appetite For Education

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