Kids (4-12)

The Right, and Wrong Way to Praise Your Kids

In the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, author Amy Chua insisted that a demanding style of parenting is the very thing that makes Asian students perform at such a high level academically and musically.  Her comments brought critics out of the woodwork.

A lot of moms just can’t help it; we heap tons of praise on our kids because we love them so much.  Who can fault us for that, right?  Well, it is great for our children to know how wonderful we think they are.  But when it comes to praising them in the smarts category, we need to get a little more strategic.

Research shows that the most effective praise is directed at our children’s efforts.  In fact, kids who were praised for their intelligence had less improvement academically, because they believed their potential was limited. Children praised on their hard work, or effort, felt that they could improve their outcomes, and did.

So when you can, build your child’s self-esteem by praising their effort.

Instead of This…

 Say This…

1. You are so smart!1. (Praise the process) You really thought through those questions.
2. Good job!2. (Point out the accomplishment) You went down that slide all by yourself!
3. You’re a great dancer!3. (Help them focus on how they achieved their success) How did you manage to do such a wonderful dance?
4. You are a natural athlete!4. (Help them see the value of putting in effort) All of your practice has really paid off.
5. Everyone loves you!5. (Tie your praise to their choices.) Your kindness makes you such a good friend.
6. You’re the best reader in your class.6. (Praise the process) Boy, the more you read the better you seem to get.
7. That’s your best drawing ever!7. (Don’t put pressure on them to do even better) This drawing is wonderful! How did you come up with the idea?
8. You make getting good grades look so easy!8. (Make the effort/results connection) All of that homework you did, and paying attention in class really paid off! Great dedication on your part!

Now, sometimes, a flat out compliment is fine—you’re so pretty, you’re so kind, you’re blessed with good intelligence—but try to find specific things to praise your children on, and praise the process. That way, they’ll see how their efforts are related to the outcomes.


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  • Mommy23

    Sooooo needed this! Thank you Michelle Dugger for being so willing to put herself out there as a human (not perfect) example. She doesn’t try to act like she has it all figured out perfectly. She is so gracious and non-judgemental. Thank you Susan Merrill so much from a mom who also tends to have a bit of a temper and gets weary and frustrated at times. We are fighting the good fight though.

  • Tosin A.

    When angry whisper. That needs to be my daily mantra as a mother. *takes deep breathe*

  • Jenna Sears

    Great suggestions– I especially enjoy the idea of whispering– not sure how they are ever going to hear me, but I’m going to give it a try! “Soft Spoken Parenting” by Dr. Wally Goddard promotes similar ideals for parenting. Thanks for the reminder to show more love!

  • cdl5555

    This is ridiculous. I realize that times are changing, but let go of the umbilical cord mom’s! Yes, get to know the parents, Yes, have a way to communicate with your child when they’d like to come home. That’s all great, but seriously, “g-rated movies” and “computer filters” and then you lump that in with “don’t micromanage”. A little contradicting? Let them go, see how they do, and assess if you should do that again.. Go with the flow. Children connect best with someone approachable, not the mom handing out rules like M&M’s