A Deeper Look At Praise

Isn’t it so tempting to praise your child’s accomplishments? When they painted a lovely painting or earned an “A” grade, it feels natural to heap praise and approval onto them. Doesn’t it feel like it’s the right thing to do to keep them motivated? In fact, external praise can actually diminish their internal motivation. While praise beats criticism, praise should be offered judiciously. The child who is consistently praised tends to become dependent on that praise in order to feel good enough about themselves. They also tend to measure themselves based on external parameters, such as grades, talents, and trophies.

There is no doubt that criticism wounds kids. While parents often believe that they are teaching their kids important lessons when they yell, nag, and judge, they are really damaging their kids’ self-esteem. Parents often feel entitled to unleash their anger onto their children when they have messed up but in fact yelling does not change the unwanted outcome. And reacting this way does not motivate them at all. Rather, it makes them love themselves less.

In order to help kids generate lasting internal motivation, mindful parents are wise to refrain from both criticism and excessive praise. This opens the space for children to figure out how to handle their responsibilities, manage their time, and enjoy their accomplishments without needing an outside source to tell them they are good enough.

Parents often ask how to motivate their child. While nagging might generate motivation in the moment, it can also cause anxiety, anger, and even lack of motivation when used regularly. Instead, consider allowing you child to experience the consequences of their actions and inactions without your interference. If they did not study for a test, or did not practice for a big game, it is more likely that they will not do as well as they could have. In those moments, the parent would be wise not to interfere. Just let them be disappointed and trust that they will figure it out.

Another important way to teach a child to be self-motivated is to role model the desired behavior. The parent who moans and complains about their own work and fails to complete their assignments and chores on time, can expect their child to exhibit those same behaviors. If there is a behavior that you want to see in your child, do it yourself. Be the example that you want to set.

So, the next time you want to tell your child that they are the next Van Gogh or Michael Phelps, instead consider commenting on a small detail, such as the lovely colors they chose for their painting, or how wonderful it is that they never missed swim practice. Otherwise, just allow them to enjoy their accomplishments on their own and watch their motivation soar.

And don’t forget … pick up a copy of my book today: HOW TO RAISE A PARENT: Becoming a Conscious Parent in an Unconscious World. It’s chock full of lessons and stories about how to generate internal motivation and all of the essentials to become a conscious parent.