September 27, 2020

BY DEVON HAYES

Children always appreciate their work being admired, but is it possible to do it too much?

A recent study, which will appear in a journal called Psychological Science, suggests that children who receive praise from their parents and teachers don’t necessarily get a boost of confidence. According to a Jan. 6 article in the Huffington Post, approximately a quarter of the parents over-praised their children.

“Twenty-five per cent of the responses met the study’s criteria for “inflated praise” – meaning they included an adverb such as “incredibly” or a superlative,” the article said. “The adults also heaped twice as much inflated praise on the children identified as having low self-esteem, suggesting that adults tend to overpraise nonconfident children in an effort to boost their sense of self.”

However, self-esteem is not the only concern. Depending on the child, some kids may get an ego boost or become dependent on the constant encouragement.
The feedback children receive depends on how the parent gives it, how much they give and how the child interprets it.

Sarah Hale, a student at Conestoga College and mother of five-year-old William and three-year-old Madeline, said in an e-mail that she congratulates her children when they do well, but gives them constructive criticism where they need improvements.

Angie Lama, an Oakville mother who has a four-year-old daughter, Micaela, as well as a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old, said that it is good to applaud your children – in moderation.
“I probably praise my kids too much,” she said. “One of the things we didn’t do correctly with our older kids is that we praised them on the little stuff – like, ‘oh, you look pretty;’ with our youngest, we say, ‘you worked really hard on that, we’re really proud of you.’ Whether she achieves greatness or not, it’s the fact that she put the effort into doing it.”

Knowing your children and their strengths is a great way to consider how to best give them praise.

“My daughter really likes hugs and kisses, or high fives as praise,” Hale said. “My son is very verbal and appreciates verbal feedback. The occasional treat is also appreciated.”
Lama also said sometimes the positive encouragement goes to her youngest daughter’s head.

“I’ve heard my four-year-old say to others, ‘I’m smart,’ and it’s almost like she hears it too much and she makes it sort of an excuse for things,” she said. “I don’t know how to fix that, because you also want your children to be humble.”

The most important thing to remember is that not all children are the same and they process feedback differently.

“My husband believes we should be praising them on their efforts, not just on the results,” Lama said.

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