Mistakes parents make when they praise their kids

Mistakes parents make when they praise their kids

There’s nothing sweeter to our kids’ ears than hearing their parents say, “You’re so smart,’ or “Good girl.” Sometimes we say it without thinking, while hoping they’ll show the same good behaviour in the future.

With all of these sweet little phrases following our kids everywhere they go, why are they actingmore helpless, less caring and more entitled than ever before? We’ve all seen glimpses of the entitlement epidemic’s – whining, negotiating and battling – in our own homes. We love our kids and are proud of the great things they do, but could it be that the message we’re sending is actually creating a sticky entitlement problem in our kids?

All sweet talk and no substance
Your son hits a game-winning free throw. No one expects you to gush, “All your practice in the driveway is paying off!” as you congratulate him in front of his teammates. “That was awesome!” would be much more appropriate. While it’s not always easy to follow through with the encouraging words our kids need, if we skip it, we’re losing out on a huge opportunity to help our kids develop the positive behaviours that will contribute to long-term success.

The antidote: A daily dose of thoughtful encouragement about hard work, perseverance, practice, study time or going the extra mile will take our kids much further than any sugary ‘Nice work!’ And after one look at your child’s face as he beams with pride that you noticed his positive effort or behaviour, rather than simply tossing out a pre-packaged, insubstantial phrase, you’ll be hooked.

Praising natural ability
It’s normal to be super excited that your five-year-old has scored more baskets than anyone else on her team, or your seven-year-old possesses musical abilities beyond his years. We’re so tempted to lay it on thick with our praise — “You’re a star!” and “You’re the best!” seem to roll off the tongue. But we’re focussing on the wrong things. While kids might enjoy natural ability, they’ve done nothing to earn it — it’s beyond their control. Time and time again in youth sports, for example, kids who are praised for their natural ability when they’re young coast through the years without developing the ability to persist, put in the effort and work as a team. They feel entitled to starting spots in the line-up and attention from college recruiters. By high school, however, everyone has caught up in size and skills, and suddenly, the natural athlete can’t handle a drop in rank. These kids become hopelessly frustrated with an activity they used to love simply because other kids can do it better than they can. The antidote: Kids of all ages will benefit much more when you encourage their action rather than their ability. Keep the focus on positive things like effort and improvement, which kids can control, rather than on any suspected natural talent, which they can’t control. Replace the sugary praise with an A for effort, and your kids will be better off for years into the future.

Dishing out the good stuff in front of siblings
Kids love to hear what they’ve done well, but when we’re gushing about their sibling? Not so much. Sometimes we simply want to encourage a child and boost her self-esteem, but other times we secretly hope that a sibling within earshot will clean up her act in response to our words, and they know it. Unfortunately, however, even the most uplifting words of encouragement will send a message of superiority to a brother or sister, leading to sibling competition and rivalry.

The antidote: Encouragement is best delivered sincerely and in private to allow the child to revel in a moment of true pride for his accomplishment or action. And you’ll also ensure the other sibling doesn’t feel discouraged or inferior. Remember it’s a balancing act making both kids feel special.

Turning praise into labels
Praise can be tricky, and sometimes, it shows up even where we don’t intend. For instance, when we label or compare our kids, we’re praising them, or worse, belittling them, often without realising it. By claiming an ‘athletic one’ or our ‘funny one’ or the ‘shy one’, we highlight abilities through comparison. Even more subtle is the designation of a go-to kid. We all have one – it’s the child we trust to carry the full salad bowl to the table. Relying on the go-to kid is a type of praise that can be just as damaging as its overt counterpart – not only because kids pick up on everything, but also because with it, we unknowingly tell kids that they are their label and can’t control who they are or what they do. The antidote: Even if you know Megha could have a career in modeling, or Rohan would rather mail himself to Siberia than speak in front of an audience, resist the urge to label Megha as ‘the pretty one’ and compare Rohan as ‘my shy kid’. While you’re handing out family tasks, divvy up age-appropriate jobs equally so everyone gets a chance to drop the salad bowl, using plastic if you’re truly concerned.

 

 

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