How to Praise a Child

There are a lot of philosophies regarding giving praise to children. Some people believe copious amounts of praise are necessary to help a child have good self esteem. Some people will tell you that praising a child too much is bad for them. What should a parent (or anyone for that matter) do? Here are some tips that should help clarify the issue.


  1. Image titled Focus your statements on the child's actions Step 1
    Focus your statements on the child's actions and efforts rather than characteristics. It's better to say something like, "I can tell you worked really hard on that," instead of, "You're so smart." Studies have shown that when children are praised for their efforts and later encountered difficult problems where they faced the possibility of failure they tended to work harder and kept trying. The same studies showed that when children were told something like how smart they were but later encountered a difficult problem with the possibility of failure they gave up. The children who were praised for being smart quit working because they didn't want to risk losing approval for not being able to complete a task.
  2. Image titled Try to engage in discussion rather than use evaluative praise Step 2
    Try to engage in discussion rather than use evaluative praise. A good example is children's art work. Rather than just say a picture is pretty, ask the child to tell you about it. This does a couple of things. Rather than having a brief interaction, you're now spending some quality time with your child. You may gain some insight into things that are important to your child by listening to things they are describing. You're also fostering important brain development by having your child describe things to you. Whether the child is 3 or 13, this type of interaction is meaningful. You're building your child's self esteem when you show them they're important enough to listen to.
  3. Image titled Praise good behavior Step 3
    Praise good behavior. When a child does something you like, acknowledge it. "I really appreciate how you made your bed today."
  4. Image titled Praise small improvements Step 4
    Praise small improvements. Everyone learns by trial and error. Sometimes you may be working on improving a behavior. Praising steps in the right direction gives encouragement to keep trying.


  • Be a good example. It's much easier to copy a behavior than it is to develop a new one by yourself. Make sure you do the things you want your child to do so you can praise them. Don't do the things you want them to avoid.
  • Catch your child doing something good. Surprise your child once in a while by noticing when they do something right and saying so.
  • If they have given up on a task, sit down and explain why its not working, rather than shout that they're doing it wrong. Let them try to figure it out themselves, and only interfere when they ask you to.
  • Don't treat older children like six year olds saying, "Oh WOW! It looks really really PRETTY!"


  • Never call a child names or belittle them.
  • Be very careful about what you say around children. They are very impressionable.
  • Evaluative praise whether positive or negative can be detrimental. Being told how smart or pretty a child is can be detrimental like being told they're ugly or stupid. Focus on their actions instead.
  • Be consistent. Being positive and engaging at times, and then indifferent or abusive at other times can be very damaging.
  • Don't use praise to manipulate.
  • It is not necessary to constantly be praising children for them to have good self esteem. An unending stream of positive statements can do damage. Tailor what you're saying to the situation and behavior. If a child has misbehaved, make sure appropriate limits are enforced.

Article Info

Categories: Nurturing Talent