Posted by: coachingparents | November 11, 2009

Praise that Works

by Danielle Koprowski

Much of the parenting advice of today tells us to use praise to get our children to repeat the behaviors that are desirable to us and to build self-esteem. As many of you know, I believe the use of praise to manipulate children may work, but it has many unintended and undesirable consequences.

One of the many consequences of praising kids is that it gets them focused on someone else’s value judgement of what they are doing rather than on the intrinsic value of the behavior. From the child’s perspective, the message is I’ve pleased you and apparently it is important that I please others.

Children who are praised in this way grow up not being able to trust their own judgement and always caring about what others will think of them. (What I think of myself is not good enough, I have to get others approval to be okay.) As adults this shows up as, what will the neighbors think or what will so & so think. Many of us spend our lives hiding our true selves from everyone because we so fear the judgement we received as children.

Praise may work for parents when kids are young because it is our approval they are seeking, but when they get into the teen years, it is no longer our approval that is most important to them. 

(There are many other effects of praise, too many to list in this brief format, for more information see Alphie Kohn’s site)

There is praise that does work to build self esteem and create a stronger connection to our kids. One example is just naturally celebrating with them their joy or excitement about something they have done.

But the most important kind of praise is the kind you give your children when they have done nothing. When you look at your child in a passive moment, the love you feel swells in your chest and you express to them how deeply you love them and how grateful you are that they are in your life.

When would now be the time for that kind of praise?

Danielle Koprowski
Free To Be Parenting Support
ACPI Certified Coach for Parents


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