Q: My wife is always praising our children even when they have not achieved anything special. Am I wrong to think this is an issue to be concerned about?
Contemporary parenting is very much praise oriented. But, like all examples of progress, there are downsides. One of these seems to be that some children lack the resilience they need to deal with the highly competitive world they are in.
Studies show that in pre-schoolers, praise helps to develop good social skills. Whether it be learning how to share or displaying good manners, praise helps to reinforce expectations for the young mind. However, as children get older, there is evidence that if praise is overly used and applied to behaviours or outcomes that don’t truly warrant it, this can make it increasingly difficult for a child to sort the things they are doing well from things they need to improve on. Blanket praise can harm motivation rather than foster it.
Delivering praise well is not easy to master and requires practise, whether you’re a parent or managing a group of adults. For a start, parents are naturally biased and rightly want to encourage their child.
Praise, when used judiciously, can be a very powerful motivating force in a child’s life. To stem arguments between you and your wife, agree to follow these praise guidelines together. First, be very specific and always be sincere with your praise. Don’t praise the ordinary, praise the ‘out of the ordinary’, because if you praise everything your child does, they won’t know what success looks like.
Be descriptive in your praise too. Explain why you think a particular drawing is effective or comment on why a particular piece of work is impressive. This way you can lead them to understanding what they have done well, so they can replicate it. Try not to use extravagant praise as this can lead to a child feeling unnecessarily pressured to keep delivering time and again.
I would also urge to you to consider the positive benefits of failure in this equation. Many parents try to circumvent failure for their children rather than allowing them to experience it. This is not healthy. Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers and children should be allowed to explore and fail on the road to success. It builds resilience and nurtures those problem-solving skills that are so necessary throughout life.
Working together as a couple when it comes to raising children is fundamental to success.
Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting (russellhemmings.co.uk). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.