Parents’ guide to praising your child

When it comes to kids, positive reinforcement goes a long way. But is there such a thing as too much praise? Before you risk not giving your little guy the applause he’s earned, check out this parents’ guide to praising your child — and let the accolades begin.

Mom helping daughter with homework

Expert Tips

It’s said that praising your child is a slippery slope. Not enough praise and he can develop low self-esteem. Too much praise and he can become dependant upon it. So how do you praise to raise self-esteem in children? Child therapist Dr Richard S. Newman,, advises that praise for children is best when it:

  • Is skill- or task-specific.
  • Refers to effort.
  • Focuses on the child’s own progress.
  • Links a specific strategy that led to the outcome.

Be specific when praising your child

Although praise should not be given to your kiddo when he is doing what is expected of him, such as having good manners, working though a tough math problem is appropriate for praise, as long as you’re specific. “Great job figuring out that math problem,” goes a lot further than just “Great job.”

>> The scary truth about praising kids

Focus on the effort

The quality of praise is much more important than the quantity. If you focus on the effort your child has made, not just his ability, “you can never praise your child too much,” says behavior therapist and author Kirk Martin,

But, he cautions, there can be such a thing as too much praise: “You can devalue the praise if it is overly emotional in tone and not specific,” he says. Letting your child know that you’re impressed that she tried really hard to work through a problem is more positive than telling her she’s smart.

Relate praises to your child, not to other children

Don’t compare your child to how other children are doing. For example, “You’re doing much better on those problems today than yesterday” is healthier than “You’re doing much better than the other kids in your class,” suggests Dr Newman.

>> Too much praise may backfire

connection effort to outcome

Helping your child see how their own hard work paid off is another positive way to praise your child for a job well done. According to Dr Newman, “[when] praise links an outcome with a specific strategy that led to the outcome, you’re teaching him that he is responsible for his own success.” For example: “Good – you got that right because you used the plan we talked about” compared with “Good, you got that right.”

>> 5 Steps to boosting your daughter’s self-esteem

Once you have a grasp on the finer points of praising, don’t hold back. Your child can be confident and develop healthy self-esteem with the right encouragement from his biggest fans – his parents.

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