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Parental compliments: what is important to say to a child


Every child feels confident and has a desire to strive further if their actions are reinforced with praise from adults. Compliments in moderation also contribute to the formation of adequate self-esteem. In this article, we will discuss what to say and how to properly praise children to guide them in the right direction.

How to praise a child correctly?

American child psychologist Carol Dweck has been studying the influence of praise on children’s behavior for over twenty years. Within the framework of numerous studies recognized by doctors from Columbia and Harvard Universities, rules have been developed that explain what is important to say to a child:

  • Children should be praised for their achievements, not for the qualities that led to the result.
  • One should take into account the abilities of their child.
  • It is strictly forbidden to compare your child with others.
  • Use the golden mean. A one-word compliment to a toddler or a verbose praise in their direction can have the opposite effect.
  • Specify the success that the child achieved. In this way, they focus their attention on what was done correctly.
  • Do not use compliments as a tool for controlling the child. Praise should be honest and motivated.

How often should you praise a child?

The frequency of praise depends directly on the achievements. It is important to motivate the child for actions that are beneficial for them so that they perform them as often as possible. Compliments for a child should be accompanied by non-verbal expressions such as hugs or kisses. This way, they will be confident not only in the correctness of their actions, but also reassured that they can count on your support.

What should you say to your child every day?

The Ukrainian psychologist Svetlana Roiz, in the framework of her numerous works, identified the main examples of how to praise a child correctly. Roiz urges to replace praising words with motivated support, for example:

  • “You’re a genius!” should be interpreted differently: “You worked diligently today. Are you interested in this subject? What was the most difficult part for you? What did you like most about this topic?”
  • “You’re a future writer!” can be rephrased as: “You described the landscape very poetically. The carefully chosen epithets and metaphors seemed to transport me to that forest. I really liked it.”
  • “Good boy! You put your pants on by yourself!” would be appropriate to replace with: “You did it on your own! I didn’t even notice how quickly you did it!”

The psychologist emphasizes that it is important for a parent to notice their child’s successes in any activity they engage in. This psychological technique will not only become a daily motivation for their self-improvement, but also positively influence the child’s trust in you.

How to praise a young child?

If school-age children will be flattered by motivated words, then preschoolers, due to their immaturity, may not understand the meaning of certain words. Compliments to young children should be expressed in a slightly simpler way, following these rules:

  • Use simple and understandable words.
  • Reinforce words with gestures and facial expressions.
  • Praise for small achievements: even a small success, such as lifting a ball or drawing a figure, will become an important compliment from parents for children.

Does praise have a reverse effect?

We found the answer to this question by referring to the research of the aforementioned American psychologist, Carol Dweck. In one of her studies, she conducted an experiment with 400 schoolchildren to investigate the effect of praising words on children’s motivation in terms of successful learning.

The essence of one of the experiments was that each fifth-grader took an IQ test consisting of simple tasks. After the testing, Dweck’s assistants told the children the results and briefly praised some children for their mental abilities and others for their efforts during testing. Of course, the children who were praised for their intelligence were proud of themselves and felt superior to the second group of schoolchildren.

Next, the team of psychologists decided to make the task more difficult. Fifth-graders were asked to take a test designed for seventh-graders. Naturally, no one could cope with the task. Those who were previously praised for their efforts noted that the test was interesting and tried to find many options for solving the tasks. The children who were previously praised for their mental abilities, as noted by the team of specialists, were very nervous, worried, and even disappointed in themselves.

The final stage of the experiment involved conducting the test, which was conducted for the first time. After the results were calculated, it was found that the category of children who were praised for their efforts improved their performance by 30%, while those who were praised for their intelligence during the first testing worsened their results by 20%.

The experiment leader was stunned by these statistical indicators and came to the conclusion that improper praise could have the opposite effect. Based on the results, Carol stated that children should be praised for their efforts. This way, they will control the situation themselves. If a child is praised for intellectual abilities that they already possess from birth, it will be difficult for them to get out of a certain situation. After all, they will be confident that they are smart because they were praised for it.

Having figured out what to say to children every day, it is important to emphasize that compliments are an important element of upbringing and supporting a child. However, praise should be motivated and should arise within the framework of a specific situation. Compliments should always be sincere and should not be based on a child’s external qualities given by nature. It is also important not to cross the line by giving a positive assessment of the situation. If parents use compliments as a tool for control, the child may realize that their actions depend on rewards or encouragement. This can lead to a loss of motivation to act on their own initiative.

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