Are you over-praising?

When the grandkids come over do you dole out the praise for things they might not actually deserve it for? Either it’s something they should be doing anyway or maybe (and this could sound harsh) they don’t deserve it. “Thank you for putting your plate on the bench”, “congratulations on your achieved mark on your English essay”, “well done for not losing your temper at the supermarket”.

Praising children is great – most of us should do it more – but even young children recognise constant praise as manipulative. They soon learn that it is meaningless flattery. Some children become self-esteem junkies and receive such a high level of praise they find it challenging when they move into another environment – like a new school – where praise is not doled out as much.


Psychologist Sylvia Rimm saw this as one of the key reasons clever kids sometimes perform poorly at university – all through their schooling they had been praised and but they arrive at uni and they become one more bright kid amongst thousands. Suddenly the praise isn’t there and they feel awful.

Kids can lose both humility and a sense of truthful perspective if we over-praise. Here are some tips.

Let them know that you are giving your opinion. So instead of, “What a great singer you are – you are the best!”, try, “I really like the way you sing. You totally put your heart and soul into it.”

They don’t need exaggerated or dishonest waffle. They will appreciate simple honesty far more if it is presented in a friendly, non-critical manner. If your child’s homework is messy and full of mistakes, address the mess but also try to find something they have done well. “I like the way you got straight into this homework. You might have rushed a bit too much because your work is usually a bit neater.”

One final tip – don’t limit your praise to what is right in front of you – look a bit into the future. “I like what you’ve done. I can see that you are turning into a real artist!”


By John Cowan, The Parenting Place

Improving and equipping families to thrive.

Read more from John and The Parenting place here.