As parents, we know that praising our kids is a very important part of raising healthy, happy, and confident children. I recently came across the pictured quote from Frederick B. Harris via Forbes magazine:
“There is no verbal vitamin more potent than praise.”
The message is particularly applicable to children – praise boosts and fortifies our kids. It helps them see the value in themselves and their actions and helps build them into the adults we want them to be one day.
What may not be as immediately evident to all of us well-meaning parents is that some methods of praise are actually more effective and have more long-term benefits than others.
The American Psychological Association just issued a press release discussing results from an interesting new study on praise and self-esteem out of the Netherlands that recently appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
According to the study, children with low self-esteem tend to receive praise that focuses on complimenting personal qualities (e.g. “you’re very talented”) whereas children with high self-esteem tend to receive praise that focuses on their efforts (e.g. “that was a great performance you did”).
When interpreting the results, the study authors suggest that children who are praised for their efforts may base their self-worth on what they do rather than who they are – leading to a more stable and healthy self-concept over time. Children who base their self-worth on how others see them may be set up for more struggles.
Certainly, we should always take caution in interpreting research results until the findings can be replicated, and we should understand that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. However, these results go a long way to support the common parenting advice to focus on praising your kids specifically for making efforts and accomplishing tasks.
So, the next time you see your child doing something praiseworthy – drawing a picture, completing a puzzle, working hard on schoolwork, etc. – try praising the effort and results for themselves. It may make more of an impact than you realize.
For more information on the study referenced in this article: