The Problem With Praise and What Can You Do?

How Can Praise Be Bad for Children?

Verbal praise is at the same level as giving a child a tangible reward like giving golden stars, cookies, candy, etc. Let’s think what is happening when we praise a child, praise is a form of sugar coated control. Praises controlling, in the sense that we are doing something to the children in order to manipulate and change their behaviour for our convenience as opposed to working with the children to help them, to guide and teach them the proper way.

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What are the Problems with Praise?

The Problem with Praise

Children seek to please us as they want our approval. It’s something they crave biologically and we are basically exploiting this by offering ‘please’ as a way to change their behaviour for our convenience. It’s convenient as instead of taking the time to sit down and have a conversation with the child and figure out what is causing the behaviour that you are trying to address.

Taking time to explain to them what needs to actually happen in a socially acceptable way basically gives them the skills that they need. But, that is actually a more time consuming and emotionally intensive process for us.

Another reason to avoid praising children is it turns the children into a praise junky. It’s very addictive by nature and they constantly seek more of it once they get used to hearing it. Children after hearing praises so much eventually is going to come to expect it. They will feel that they need this external motivation from others in order to feel good about themselves instead of looking inward and feeling pride in their own accomplishments.

Even though the children might not be consciously aware of it, the only motivation that praises from others is giving them is the motivation to seek more praise. Eventually what constant praises do is that it creates a situation where children are only engaging in the behaviour that we praise them for, because the adult is watching them and they are receiving the positive reaction from the adult. But we praise, hoping that they will feel good and therefore will do the right thing the next time as well. This way we are making children only seek praise, but not actually do the right thing. 

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What Else To Do/Say?

  • Don’t say anything at all. It’s difficult for many, as silence can be uncomfortable. Often there is no need to fill that void that is created by silence. 

If a child comes to you showing something, say a drawing. You can simply state what can be seen – such as “I can see that you have used a lot of colours. Did you enjoy making it? Here instead of praising you have shared what you noticed about the drawing. This provides specific feedback that they can use. The child will be able to understand what it is about the drawing that you have noticed and appreciate. 

  • When a child comes to you and is excited about something they did. They are looking for your reaction in the form of praise. You could instead focus on the efforts they took in doing the activity. 
  • If you notice a behaviour in a child that you would like to appreciate something about their behaviour and share that with them. Here we can help the child to focus on the effect of that behaviour on the other person.

Say for instance you notice a child sharing his toy with another child and you want to praise the child for sharing the toy. You could say to the child – “Look how happy you have made your friend by sharing your toy with him. By doing this you have brought to the child’s notice the happiness he gave to another person by his behaviour of sharing. Here the child’s motivation to share will be to give joy to another person.

Therefore, praise is not necessary to encourage or motivate a child. 

Happy Parenting!!!

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Author Profile:

Maria Joseph

Maria Joesph

An experienced Montessori trained teacher who loves to play with children, eat chocolates, watch the rain, watch movies and to read.

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