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Praising Children: Is There A Right And Wrong Way To Do It?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Apr 23, 2023

Praising Children: Is There A Right And Wrong Way To Do It?

Ask child health experts and they’ll tell you about the importance of praising children when they deserve it. But, did you know that there are things to keep in mind when praising kids? What are the implications of empty praises? More importantly, how do you make sure that you’re giving them praise in ways that help their development? The answers and more in this article. 

A Praise Alone Is Not Enough

Praise is when you tell or show children that you liked what they did or how they behaved. A simple, “great job” or “awesome work” is an example of praise. 

Experts say praising children not only boosts their confidence, but it also helps them develop a sense of self. 

But praise alone is not enough. Reports say the quality, context, and intention of the praise must be taken into account. 

Think of a marathon where children who finished first and who worked harder than others received the same medal as everyone else who entered the marathon. You might be sending them the message that they don’t have to work too hard to receive an award. Just showing up and exerting the bare minimum is enough. 

Things To Watch Out For When Praising Children


While adults are advised to be generous in praising effort, experts do not recommend giving empty praise where kids receive A+ for C- works. 

Our marathon example above can be considered a form of overpraising. When you reward children for simply showing up, they might not recognize the importance of hard work. 

Empty praises might also mean you frequently praise the child for the littlest of things. This can turn them into “praise addicts” where they do things because they want to be praised rather than the fun or righteousness of the deed. 

Praising things that out of their control

Another thing to watch out for is praising children for things not under their control. Telling them “you’re so pretty” and “your voice is great,” isn’t bad per se. But praising them for those things alone doesn’t help motivate them. 

Tips When Praising Children

If you want to make the most of the praises you give your children, keep the following tips in mind:

Be specific

What exactly is your child receiving the praise for? Instead of saying “good job at the restaurant today,” tell them instead “thank you for waiting patiently for me to finish talking with my friend.”

Stay honest

Children can know when you’re not being sincere with your praises. If you tell them “You were the best player in the field,” when another classmate obviously did better, they might think you’re not paying attention to them or that you don’t believe they can do any better. 

Praise the effort and focus on progress

Try not to compare your children to others. Instead, focus on how they performed and then help them reflect on how they feel about their own achievement. 

In our marathon example, it’s not necessarily bad for all to receive a medal. But, it might help if you praise your child by saying, “Congratulations on finishing the race, how do you feel about it? Do you think it was your best effort?”

Of course, focus on progress, too. If their handwriting improved, tell them so. “Hey, your hard work is paying off, your handwriting has really improved!”

More than praise, show appreciation

On top of praising children, show them you appreciate their effort, too because it has positively affected others consequently. 

“Thank you for helping me in the garden. Because of that I can help your grandmother with the clothes.”

Key Takeaways

Praising children is a great way to boost their confidence and sense of self, but remember that there are things to watch out for, like overpraising, being insincere, comparing them with others, and focusing on the things they have no control over. 

Learn more about Parenting here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Apr 23, 2023

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