6 better ways to praise your child

Praise is far more effective when it’s descriptive and when we are mindful of how and when to use it. Here are some valuable tips on how to praise and encourage tots.


When we look to encourage our children, the phrases: “you’re so smart,” “you’re so fast,” and “good job” are our go-tos.  However, these generalized phrases can actually be de-motivating your child as opposed to encouraging them.  On the other hand, NOT encouraging your child via praise can be equally detrimental, it’s important to find the right balance so that your child feels recognized for their accomplishments but are also encouraged to continue achieving bigger and better things.

So, how much should we praise, when should we praise, and how should we praise effectively to encourage our little guys and gals?  Below are a few suggestions on ways that you can tap into your child’s intrinsic motivation. These are guidelines on ways for you to praise your child for completing tasks or using their manners. As with most things in life, the quality of the praise is much more important than the quantity.

  1. Praise the process, not the person: Praise your child for their effort, hard work, or persistence.  Avoid using phrases about being the best at something.
  2. Use specific praise that contains realistic standards: Instead of just saying ‘good job”, let your child know what you think they did well.  For example, “I liked the way you offered the your friend a turn with your favorite toy”.  This phrase is much more descriptive and allows your child to recognize specifically what you liked about their behavior.  Try to keep your description realistic.  Reacting as if ‘no individual has ever done something better than they just did,’ creates unrealistic expectations.
  3. Praise kids only for things they have the ability to change or improve: Focus on the strategies your child used or the effort level that was put in. So instead of saying “you’re so smart, great job!” you can say “you worked so hard to finish that puzzle, great job!”
  4. Do not over praise, avoid praising the obvious: You want children to feel pride in accomplishing something themselves, as opposed to just seeking praise.  Things that come easily to your child or that they enjoy doing already, do not need encouraging. They have already mastered these things and, as a result, are already receiving an intrinsic reward.
  5. Praise should be sincere: Praise should reflect the amount of effort the child puts in, otherwise it can quickly become meaningless.
  6. Encourage new activities: Children should be encouraged to try new activities and new challenges. This can be frustrating or even a little scary, so it is very appropriate to recognize and praise the hard work involved in trying a new challenge or something outside their comfort zone. You want to continue to have them explore new things so that they learn and grow.
  7. Encourage your child not to compare themselves to others but rather improve on their own skills: If children are too focused on competing with others they might miss out on opportunities to learn new things or avoid new challenges just so that they can be the best at something. Encourage improvement within reason, however try to not to encourage them just for competing against others.

There many ways, other than direct praise or rewards, to show your child that you are proud of their achievements. Give them your undivided attention or positively acknowledge what they are doing.  You can do this by asking them questions or making comments about whatever it is they are doing. Through acknowledgement and interest, you are helping your child see that they are capable. You want your child to know that you support them; this goes a long way to building their confidence effectively.