Kids & Company Blog

Is there such a thing as too much praise?

I do consider myself somewhat of a "parenting expert" and this is not just because I have 8 children, but also because many years ago (26 to be exact), I attended a 2-year parenting course called "Children the Challenge”. Since then, I have continued with reading and taking courses every year. While I do not always agree with what I read, I feel that the answer for parents is to read/learn and decide what makes sense for you.

I recently read a book called Nurtureshock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Nurtureshock challenges the accepted norm of how we parent our children by presenting groundbreaking research on topics such as race, praise, lying and sleep.

The opening chapter of NurtureShock addresses the issue of praise. What is the appropriate way to praise a child? How can this affect their growth and development? In the 80’s and 90’s, showering our children with praise was considered the right thing to do. Yes – it seems logical – we want our children to succeed, so we should applaud every achievement. However, recent research suggests this is not the case. Bronson and Merryman explain that by doing this, we are instilling a sense of uncertainty and fearfulness to try new things.

Bronson and Merryman stress that this doesn’t mean we should never praise our children. It is just that our praise must be very specific. I agree with this completely.

Some points that I really like from this chapter include:

  • Focus on effort. I believe that it is not about what you do, it is about what kind of person you are. It is not just about winning; it is about trying your best.
  • Be specific when praising your child. For example, instead of saying “good boy”, try, “I like the way you shared your toys with your friend.”

I have a number of further thoughts on this topic. Stay tuned!