Parenting

Praising Your Child Can Backfire. Do This Instead

“Wow, I’m so proud of you for winning the science fair!”

“You got an A on that test—way to go!”

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“Good job at today’s soccer game—you were the best player there!”

“You stacked those blocks so nicely!”

“You are just so smart.”

Praise is good for kids, isn’t it?

You’re building them up, making them feel good about themselves, and motivating them to keep up the great work.

Actually, not so fast.

Even though it feels good for YOU to give your child praise, it may not have the effect you intend.

It can even completely backfire and create long-lasting issues in your children.

Who Determines Your Child’s Worth—You Or Your Child?

The point of parenting is to raise resilient, self-reliant adults.

It’s easy to forget this in the day-to-day with a child from toddler to teen. You want him or her to cooperate, you want peace in your household, and sometimes you just want to get through the day.

But the reality is that your children are only under your roof for a relatively short period of time.

In order to equip your children to grow into adults you’ll be proud of, you need to raise them to be proud of themselves—and that only happens when their sense of self-worth is generated from within themselves.

You want your child to trust himself, to know what’s important to him, and to ultimately make decisions for their higher good.

But when you give praise, it’s coming from a place of you determining what’s important—you’re giving them a “grade.”

The Unfortunate Result: Children Can Become “Praise Junkies”

Praise promotes external validation to the point that children can become “praise junkies”—shape-shifting their behavior to get attention even if it doesn’t feel good to THEM.

When you rely on praise as a parenting strategy, your children lose the capacity to check in with themselves—they’re just basing their worth on what they get from the outside.

If they do something you like, they get a smile, a word of praise, a reward. So instead of checking in with their own feelings about whether something feels right or wrong, they learn to take their cues from everyone but themselves.

This leads children to become overanxious, indecisive adults who don’t trust their own internal compass.

And that’s not a good way to live. Maybe you know this firsthand.

Where You Raised On Praise? (Many Of Us Were)

Earlier generations did not have access to the self-awareness and parenting tools we luckily have today.

Maybe you grew up in a household where you tried really hard to please dad and did everything you could to avoid his wrath.

Maybe your mom based her own sense of self worth on how her kids were “measuring up.”

If you didn’t get a good grade on your test, or if you didn’t care about your clothes the way other girls did, your mom’s displeasure was obvious. And it hurt.

But this kind of childhood meant you became hyper-aware of what the people AROUND YOU felt. Little by little, your focus drifted away from your own internal guidance.

This is the kind of parenting that leads adults to become people pleasers at the detriment of their own wellbeing. It’s the kind of parenting that leads grownups into codependent and controlling relationships.

An Alternative Approach That Builds Self-Reliance (And A Child Who Ultimately Respects You More)

You may think that moving away from praise will mean your kid is never motivated to cooperate, or that he will turn into a selfish kid only looking out for himself.

The opposite is true.

When you show your child you trust him—and you allow him to find his inner guidance and internal motivators—you give your child a priceless gift.

As he learns self-reliance, he sees you as a person he can be himself with. He feels trusted, accepted, and understood. He feels like his own person.

When that happens, get ready, because your child will naturally be motivated to start doing more of the things that make you proud—and he’ll develop a self-sustaining pride from within. At the same time, you’ll develop more connection with your child than you’ve ever had.

It really is a win-win, and it’s what I’ll teach you to do—step by step—in my program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes.

Through live coaching parents with children of all ages, you’ll watch me explain the proven methods that really work to get your child to “step up,” make better decisions, trust themselves, and ultimately have a much smoother relationship with the world—and you.

This isn’t about scripting parenthood or removing joy, it’s about giving you precise prompts you can customize in any situation that work even better to give you the result you’re hoping for.

Instead of heaping on the praise when your child scores a top grade, you’ll learn to tweak your dialogue like this:

“You worked so hard on that test and you got an A. What was it like when you saw that? Were you really happy about it?”

Do you see the difference?

Instead of making a blanket judgement and coming from a place of what YOU think is right, you allow your child to arrive at the answers all on his own.

What’s more, you’re delighting in HIS delight. And you know how good it feels when someone is really happy for you—not because there’s anything in it for them.

My program will show you how to catch yourself before you do the habitual—like resorting to default praise—and teach you how to replace your default with better choices. I call them “micro-choices” because tiny tweaks like these add up to big wins with your child.

Raising More Resilient Children

As you learn to parent your children in a way that empowers them, you also empower yourself—and allow yourself to heal from your own childhood.

Warmly,

Susan Stiffelman

P.S. Are you worried you’ve spent years slathering on the praise—and now your kids won’t learn to trust themselves?

Please don’t. It’s really never too late to start making better choices and have the right impact on your kid. If you change the way you react and respond to your child now, you’ll give him the head start you might not have had when you were growing up:

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