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How do you praise your child?

by Ines Wurbs

Praising has long been considered the ultimate parenting tool. However, praising does not always have to be good. In this article, we will show you what you need to pay attention to and how you can give praise.

How to praise your child:

  • With kind words
  • With words of encouragement
  • With a focus on the effort
  • With constructive advice
  • Referring to your child, and
  • With good reason

What you should pay attention to and what you should avoid can be found below.

What’s important, when you praise?

Praise is crucial in parenting. However, inappropriate praise could also be a bad thing. So, what do you have to watch out for?

Praise effort

The most important thing is to praise your child for their effort. If you notice that your child has put great effort into it, you should tell him/her so. Please make sure to appreciate the effort regardless of the outcome! “I think it’s great how much effort you put in!” has a motivating effect on your child and shows your child your appreciation.

Be honest

Also, only praise something that your child has worked hard for and if they are or should be proud of something. Be careful not to exaggerate and perhaps interpret things that your child actually didn’t achieve. They may just embarrass them or create pressure.

Here are a few examples of over-the-top praise:

  • “I think you did it so incredibly well. You probably practiced extra and put in a great effort.”
  • “Most likely, no one can do this as well as you.”
  • “As soon as you learn this, you will be the world champion.”

These statements are most likely exaggerated for most things. If that’s really the case, then of course it’s okay to say so. But if not, then your child will surely be happy: “You did an impressive job. I can see that you tried hard, and I think made an effort.”

For example: children with low self-esteem react to exaggerated praise with distrust, as a study shows.

Be specific: Tell your child what they did well. “Wonderful how well you cut that out” will get more to your child than a simple “wonderful.” So, it knows what’s good about it and learns more about its own skills.

Be frugal

You don’t have to praise every little thing. Complimenting a child for going to the bathroom alone is only appropriate during the practice period or because something was particularly challenging. However, if your child has been doing it on their own for a year, it is not absolutely necessary. It would probably even surprise your child. 

Praise should be something special. 

Praise in a timely manner

The younger your child is, the more immediate the praise should be. If there is too much time between your child’s performance and the praise, it will have significantly less impact. Young children can then no longer relate. For them, it is not a sense of achievement.

Give praise in an age-appropriate way

Of course, your child should also understand the praise. The choice of words should therefore be adapted to the age of your child.

Meet at an equal eye level and with closeness

Put yourself at your child’s eye level and be right next to your child when you praise them. So, you can be sure that you have your child’s full attention.

Why is praise important for your child?

Praise shows our children our appreciation. It has a motivating effect and thus increases motivation and ambition to achieve a set goal.

Praise also increases focus on the task. Praise acts as a motivator. However, as an external motivator. So, the motivation comes from outside, from someone else. But dealing with a task or a goal can also generate interest.

In any case, praise strengthens your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Through informative praise, our children learn what they are good at, but also what they are less good at. You learn to assess yourself better.

In addition, the right praise naturally has a positive effect on your relationship and thus on the bond with your child.

Should you always praise children?

No, definitely not. Praise is good, but if it’s used constantly and for everything, even praise will be ineffective. Your child then no longer realizes it and does not really perceive it. And certainly not as recognition for a special achievement. Too much praise can even have a negative effect.

In this way, your child learns to assess his own actions correctly. If mom always says that everything is outstanding, that’s the way it is. Your child also needs to learn to deal with frustration. Your child should also learn to deal with the fact that they can do something without always being praised from outside. That increases ambition. If you want to strengthen your child’s ambition, then this article will tell you how to do it.

Negative praise


In any case, you should avoid comparisons with others.

  • ”You can do that much better than Kevin”
  • “Not many people your age can do that” or
  • ”You were the best of your team”.

Comparisons only create competition. If your child has done something well, simply refer your praise to your child. There is no need for comparisons with others. It only undermines respect for the achievements of others. Under certain circumstances, comparisons also create pressure to perform. Your child gets the feeling that they always have to be the best.

Only praise the result

The goal/result is the focus of most of the tasks for our children anyway. Therefore, it is good to draw attention to your child’s actual performance. So, to the effort.

We all have times when we try hard and still don’t reach our goal. But it is especially important for our children to recognize and acknowledge this.

The attempt, the perseverance, the effort. Especially in such a situation, our children are disappointed because they didn’t reach their goal or the result didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Nevertheless, to ensure that your child does not lose motivation and that it sees it was worth trying, praise is definitely appropriate here.

Don’t make a “but” sentence out of it

If you give praise, leave it at that. Adding “but” negates the praise and turns it into a negative, bad experience.

Simply omit the “but” or convert it into a nonjudgmental observational account.

Instead of, “But you should have practiced this passage better.”

“I noticed that this passage was a bit slower”. If possible, submit such “suggestions for improvement” with a little distance from the praise. Immediately afterward, it could still be construed as a weak “but”.

Don’t give praise as your backdoor

Don’t use praise to get your child to do something they really don’t want to do. Your child will quickly see through this tactic. For example: “You always take out the garbage so well. Wouldn’t you like to show me again how great you are at it?”

Conclusion about positive reinforcement

Praise is great for fueling our children’s ambition and motivation. But it should be well-thought-out, based on the effort in a specific situation, and above all honest. Then, of course, there is nothing wrong with praise.

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