I think every parenting book or article I’ve read say not to praise your child. Apparently, excessive praising takes away the sense of satisfaction that the child feels. They’ll start to focus on the rewards (praise among them) for doing something rather than doing it just for the pure enjoyment of doing it. I know all this and I don’t think I praise LO too much, but I still catch myself doing it! Pretty much any time I say “good,” there’s a praise already waiting to come out, whether it’s “good job!” or “good boy!”
I read a great tip on Taking Back Childhood by Nancy Carlsson-Page that said our comments should be descriptive rather than evaluative. What does that mean? Here is an evaluative comment:
“That drawing is beautiful! I like it.”
First, we’re judging the drawing (it’s beautiful). Then we’re saying whether we like it or not. Saying evaluative comments like that too often might make the kid rely on other people’s opinions and make them feel that their work will be scrutinized. Or they may seek external rewards rather them drawing just because they love to draw, or them feeling proud of themselves all on their own.
Here’s a descriptive comment instead:
“Wow, you’re holding the crayon and drawing red swirls on the paper!”
The tone of voice will show pleasure and support without being judgmental, and leaves all the pleasure of the work to the child.
Another great tip I read was to praise the effort, not their talents. “That’s great that you kept trying to do the puzzles until you eventually figured it out!” vs. “You’re such a smart boy, I knew you could figure it out!” Praising effort lets children believe that they are in control of what they do, whereas praising inherent talents makes children believe that these are skills they either excel in or not. Kids who get praised for talents steer away from things that don’t come easy to them (e.g. the “artistic” child won’t feel compelled to tackle math problems because she’s the artistic one, not the one good at math). But kids who get praised for effort feel they can control the situation, and that the results are due to their efforts (e.g. “I failed the math test because I didn’t study,” not “I failed the math test because I’m not that good at math”).
Hopefully just being aware of the difference will make me more mindful of the message I send LO. I know as a parent I’m bound to think he did a good job. But I do try as much as possible to describe what he does, almost like a sportscaster, instead of showering him with praise for every little thing he does. And when I do praise, I’ll try to stick to praising effort.