Are You Over Praising Your Child?

When your child first starts to walk, you applaud. When they say their first “Da-Da”, you get the giggles. And when they create even the most unrecognizable doodle (or let’s call it “abstract art”), you put it up on the wall. Some would call it normal parental support, but some would say you are doling out your praises too often, too much. Can you actually damage your child’s emotional well-being by telling them they’re doing a good job?

Baby and Breakfast: Parenting Are You Over Praising Your Child?


According to studies by Stanford professor Carol Zweck, overpraising has quite the distinction from plain and simple praise. When you tell your children that “every little thing she does is magic”, when they get older and things don’t quite work out for them at work, they will trace back to memories of being “perfect” and might not be able to cope so well. So how do you help prevent that? Here are some signs that you might be overdoing the compliments:


”I did a great job!”

When the praise starts coming from within and being expected despite the minimal achievement, you know there’s trouble in paradise. It may come in the form of a group activity in toddler class but your child still can’t wait to get his own acclaim, or he may even start taking credit for other people’s work.

What you can do:

Spread the favor. If it was a team work effort by him and his classmates, make sure to congratulate everyone for a job well done, and perhaps tell your child that he did well by working with his friends. Teach him that some things can actually be even more enjoyable if done with others.


“Do you think I'm beautiful?”

Of course your child will always be beautiful in your eyes, and it would be hard to resist telling her that every day. But think about it: By overpraising a person for their looks, you might just be creating more opportunities for her adult version to become insecure. If she has to ask you if she’s beautiful, she must be feeling the need for your approval. Her measure of beauty will be dependent on what you say, instead of her developing her own confidence in herself.

What you can do:

You can try talking to your child about “beauty on the inside”. When watching princess cartoons, perhaps talk more about how the character’s inner strength and positive characteristics are of more value to you than how her dress looks like.


“But I’m the winner! Not him!”

Another risk of getting overly praised is that the child starts to feel as though he has to be overly-competitive and be declared the constant winner in order to feel good. His self-image can become dependent on being able to defeat someone. He will also compare himself with others, and the ugly truth is that sometimes, he won’t always be the better one at everything. What then?

What you can do:

When disappointment comes, tell your child that other people might be good in some areas, but he also has his strengths. For example, if his brother wins the race, tell your other child that this time, his brother ran really fast but that you noticed he really gave his best effort. Praise the effort, not the talent. That way, you might even manage to instill the value of perseverance in him.


“I don’t want to do it anymore.”

Praise and criticism sometimes go hand in hand. Telling your child that she did a great job despite doing something not truly remarkable might be laying the groundwork for a child who does not know how to handle failure too well. When overpraising backfires, it can produce a person who does not know how to work through roadblocks and challenges.

What you can do:

At an early age, teach your child that the true gem lies in giving it your best shot. The effort of trying your hardest should be well-encouraged. For some, failure is not an option, but that kind of pressure might break a child’s spirit. If genuine effort has been made, tell your child that she can always try again next time and that no matter what, her parents will always be her number one cheerleaders.


"Do you like my drawing?”

When you’ve almost made your kid believe that he could be the next National Artist, could you be allowing him to believe that other people’s opinion about him matters more than what he feels? Teaching a child to be dependent on praise trains him to wait for other people’s approval of his work for validation, instead of seeing the merit in his own talents and efforts. He will wait for you to say that his scribbles are magnificent, and will keep trying to measure up to your expectations.

What you can do:

Say it like it is. Maybe he could be the next National Artist, or maybe not. The whole point is to balance genuine appreciation and criticism. If his doodles look incomprehensible, you can say that “It looks so interesting!” or “What a wide imagination you have!” If his artworks really do stand out, then tell him to keep working at it, and take his cue if he wants to enroll in classes or learn more through practice. Encourage more effort and as the parent, do a better job at giving descriptive praises. Instead of just saying “good job”, you can say that you like the colors he used this time around, or that because he keeps practicing basketball, he’s getting more shots in the hoop.


Don’t get us wrong–children do need to be praised and encouraged. But as with everything else, it can get overdone so exercise caution in doling it out, so as not to deal with a narcissistic or insecure son or daughter in the future.


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