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Praising children: Can Too Much Praise Spoil Your Child?

by Vidya Sury March 10, 2016 12 comments
Praising Children Vidya Sury

Interesting question, isn’t it, about praising children? Can too much praise spoil a child? I wonder if you’ve sometimes worried about overdoing the praising part with your child?

I must confess I’ve not only been guilty of doing it, but also regretted it.

Most times, we go by instinct. Praising a child is critical for her to cultivate positive behavior. In fact, it is a gentle and loving way to encourage building self-confidence in her abilities along with self-esteem.

Why is praising children important?

It is a great way to give her positive feedback, essentially letting her know what she’s doing is right, appreciating the effort regardless of whether the outcome is as expected. It is a good idea to make sure she’s appreciated for something every day. Ideally, it must be a behavior or action that deserves it.

Personally, I believe that encouragement is more important than praise. Of course, I’ve sat on the fence wondering whether I praised too little or too much. But I found myself focusing more on the question: am I encouraging as much as I should?

Unless we encourage, how will the child reach the stage where she can be praised? Growing up is a journey that involves learning along the way and as parents, it is our duty to steer our children in the right direction, encouraging them at every step.

Can too much praise actually spoil a child?

Here’s what I learned about giving praise, with a few tips to praise sincerely and reinforce positive behavior.

Praise is wonderful but too much can be a problem especially as the child can get used to it and take it for granted.  After a point it stops being effective. While praise is great for developing confidence, too much has the opposite effect. It can even make the child conceited. Worse still, she starts expecting it so much at home that when she doesn’t receive it elsewhere, for example in school, she becomes confused.

It is important to be honest with our children, encouraging them when they need it and telling them the truth when what they are doing is not okay. This promotes understanding, appreciation and mutual respect. It turns them into responsible human beings with a healthy conscience.

As I tried my best to parent my son with love and logic, here are some things I learned along the way about giving praise:

  1. I learned to look at encouragement as the journey and praise as the destination.
  2. It is more important to recognize the effort, without obsessing over the mistakes and accepting them as part of growing up, while encouraging them to do better the next time. This will make them believe in themselves.
  3. Encouragement focuses on effort, involvement and enjoying the process, building confidence levels naturally
  4. When we offer honest feedback, our children respect us for it.
  5. It is okay for children to worry a little before they experience the joy of achievement
  6. As parents, we must acknowledge our children for who they are, rather than what we want them to be.
  7. Empathy is a big part of parenting where we share our children’s anxiety when they struggle with something
  8. At each stage, be alert to small improvements
  9. Ensure that expectations are realistic
  10. Nurture the positive
  11. Teach the value of discipline
  12. Be patient. Be very patient.
  13. Don’t be stingy with compliments

Compassionate parenting is mostly about encouragement. I like to see it as the fuel that motivates a child to progress in life, with a good attitude.

Some tips to praise sincerely and reinforce positive behavior

  • Make eye contact
  • Smile or hug
  • Be specific about what you are praising her for
  • Do not criticize
  • If suitable, reward her

Celebrate your child as she grows into the unique human being she is, but do not hesitate to let her know if she did something wrong. Help her build a strong sense of self, while bonding with her in the process.

What are your thoughts on praising children? Do share in the comments!

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Shantala March 11, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Vidya – this is something that I never thought of. I think I encourage and praise D, but you have a point – there is a difference, and they need more encouragement than praise.
Shantala recently posted…The many screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice

Rachna March 11, 2016 at 9:30 pm

You made me ponder. I encourage and praise both. I didn’t really feel that there was a difference. I completely agree with your last lines that you need to celebrate the child and also let them know if they are erring. I think parents need to honestly assess their children and not get carried away by blind love. If we won’t correct them then who will? But since they derive their self esteem from us, we must be careful about how we do both — praise or censure.

My Era March 11, 2016 at 10:52 pm

This is a topic I have often thought about, and that quote is one of my all time favorites 🙂
I am totally with you in encouraging the child at ever step, being patient and being genuine in our praises.

However, I criticize my child too, keeping it mild, open for discussion (taking time to let her understand my point and allowing her to express hers) and letting her see what I didn’t like about her action or words to let her see where I’m coming from.

I wholeheartedly agree that positive reinforcement is the technique to instill self-confidence in children everyday, beginning early 🙂
My Era recently posted…Conflict

Birgit March 12, 2016 at 10:40 am

I don’t have children so it might be remiss of me to talk about this but I still will give my two cents worth:) I think it is fine line between praising the child to help and increase their self esteem and praising the. To the point where the parent is blind to the child’s need for discipline. My former mom in law told me once that discipline means love and that children search for this and I am a firm believer in this. My mom would praise me often but if I did something wrong, she was also the first total me so and tell me I must take responsibility for my actions. I see, all too often, children praised for things they should not have done by saying their child doesn’t know any better or they are sensitive. If the. Hold receives nothing but praise how can the child learn discipline? How will they learn perseverance? How will they learn independence? I think too much praise will undermine their self confidence and self worth which is why so many never leave the nest. All. I know is that being a parent is the toughest job on earth.

Vidya Sury March 16, 2016 at 10:06 pm

Birgit, I agree with you about the discipline. I know for a fact that children actually feel secure in the authority of their parents/guardians. It is quite like feeling protected, in the knowledge that someone is there who’s looking out for you. My Mom was quite strict even though she was very affectionate and loving. I did not get away with stuff. I remember that time when I wanted to go out with some friends and was afraid she’d say no…. so one of my friends went and asked her for permission. Of course my Mom didn’t agree. Later she told me that I had a much better chance of getting a yes than via a friend. That made me feel really happy. These days, things are very different with children. I feel it comes from both parents feeling guilty about being at work while their kids have to spend time by themselves, so they make up for it by praising them a bit too much. Thank you for your insightful comment. I am privileged to know you, Birgit.
Vidya Sury recently posted…Better Safe Than Sorry

Jaishvats March 12, 2016 at 6:30 pm

I have two kids and I am still learning about parenting…. I try to better myself each day… You are right…. Encouragement is more important than praise
Jaishvats recently posted…Glasses, sunglasses!

Vidya Sury March 16, 2016 at 10:01 pm

Parenting is a lifelong learning process, Jaish.. 🙂 and fun, too! I think that as long as we’re close to our children, all is well!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Better Safe Than Sorry

Asha March 12, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Too much praise as you rightly said, can soon stop having much effect. I think children are sensitive enough to understand when it’s really true and when it’s fake. And so while genuine praise can have the desired effect, continuous ones might soon lose their charm. The distinction between encouragement and praise is an interesting aspect you have brought out. I think that’s something I need to work on.
Asha recently posted…Little Terrorist

Vidya Sury March 16, 2016 at 9:59 pm

The thing about praise is – it becomes routine too quickly and expectations run high. 🙂 Encouragement can be unlimited, while being honest about shortcomings. Thanks for coming by, Asha!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Gratitude is like a flashlight

Donna Merrill March 13, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Hi Vidya,

There is a difference! I do believe we always should encourage a child in a positive way. But I do see an overload in praise these days. It makes me wonder when a child is doing something potentially dangerous, like reaching for the stove top. A parent will take a long time praising that child for his or her curiosity, and then explain how it is dangerous. That rubs me the wrong way.

Maybe I’m old fashioned but a stern voice works better I believe.


Vidya Sury March 13, 2016 at 10:50 pm

I agree, Donna. I am a big believer in love and logic, but a stern tone when appropriate. I remember how my Mom only had to look at me for me to get the message. I am glad I’ve managed to cultivate that with my son as well. Authority is important while they’re growing up, especially when they’re young – how else will they learn? Gosh, I recall how my son was very fond of exploring every cavity and socket – he was a bundle of curiosity, naturally. It was up to us to make sure he understood danger and safety. And yes, in some situations, there’s just no time to waste with explanations! Thank you so much for coming by! It is a pleasure to see you!
Vidya Sury recently posted…When I’m 60 this is how I want to enjoy my life

Vasantha Vivek March 15, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Vidya, I also read the difference between praise and encouragement through different posts. I am also drafting a post on this. Anyhow a great post to rekindle our parenting strategies.
Vasantha Vivek recently posted…Feel The Magic Of Storytelling


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