A psychotherapist says parents who raise confident, mentally strong kids always do these 3 things when praising their children

A psychotherapist says parents who raise confident, mentally strong kids always do these 3 things when praising their children

As parents, we want our kids to feel good about themselves , so we try to praise them as much as possible.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Research shows that there are benefits to praising kids. A simple compliment can generate self-worth and pride. However, it depends on what kind of praise we give, as well as when and how frequently.

As a psychotherapist who works with parents and children, I’ve seen over and over again the negative effects of overpraising a child’s talent or outcome (“This looks amazing!” “You’re so handsome!” “Good job!”).

But these short, exaggerated reactions can cause kids to only focus on things that may harm their self-esteem. They might feel performance anxiety (“If I get this answer wrong, I am dumb.”), for example, or believe that they are only appreciated for their appearance (“What if people think I look weird in this shirt? Then they won’t love me.”).

So should you praise your kids at all? Of course. But there are right and wrong ways to give praise. Here’s what parents of confident, self-motivated and mentally strong kids always do:

1. They praise the process

When you praise the process (e.g., the kid putting effort into a math assignment), instead of the talent or outcome (e.g., the kid’s natural ability to solve math problems quickly), kids are more likely to develop a positive attitude toward future challenges.

In the 1990s, Carol S. Dweck , a professor of psychology at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, studied the effects of these types of praises. In one experiment , a group of children was told they were successful because they were smart, while the second group was told they were successful because they worked hard.

When the two groups were given a variety of puzzles, children in the second group were more likely to choose a harder puzzle. Dweck also found that praising the process made them more likely to feel confident in a task even if they made a mistake.

2. They never make it a competition

Parents love to compare — we can’t help it! And sometimes, we’ll even tell our kids that they’re better than others (“You scored more goals than all your teammates combined!”).

Often, it’s done with good intentions. We want them to feel as proud as we do, and to be motivated to do even better the next time … but for all the wrong reasons.

It’s not healthy to be trapped in a vicious cycle of competition. Social comparisons can teach kids to always measure success based on the outcomes of other people.

Even worse, according to research, giving kids praise in terms of comparison, in some cases, can cultivate narcissism, attention-seeking behavior and a lack of teamwork values.

The better approach? Encourage them to compare their past efforts with their present efforts, rather than with other people. This gets them into the habit of shifting their goals away from being better than everyone else and toward self-improvement.

3. They use observational language

What is Quest Depot?

Quest Depot is an incentive-tied, science-based gamified experience for personal growth that helps people as young as elementary school to set goals, track progress, review performance, think positively and live out their dreams.  

Personal goals are turned into quests at Quest Depot, and users benefit from all proven effective productivity and success methods automatically applied to their goal in a simple and visual way.  Parents, grandparents, families and friends can sponsor adventurers on their quests with cash prizes that are only released upon verified completion of quests.

Quest Depot replaces:

  • Reward charts
  • Diary/journal
  • To do list, Project management tools
  • Progress tracking charts
  • Behavior contracts
  • Mood monitoring apps
  • Consequences / punishments

Uses for Quest Depot:

  • Change habits
  • Record progress
  • Goal setting
  • Guided journal
  • Emotions check-in
  • Manage allowances and reward for behavior
  • Involve extended family and friends in what’s important to you

Benefits of Quest Depot:

  • More confident. Develop a growth mindset.
  • Self discovery. Become more self-aware.
  • Better mood, happier, calmer.
  • Stronger relationships. Allies share your successes and setbacks and become better connected.
  • More successful.  Increase likelihood of achieving goals.
  • Earn rewards–money for achieving your goals.
  • Self-discipline.  Committed to what you set out to do.
Need More Self-Control? Try a Simple Ritual

Need More Self-Control? Try a Simple Ritual

Many of our most vexing problems, from overeating to not saving enough for retirement to not working out enough have something in common: lack of self-control. Self-control is what gives us the capacity to say no to choices that are immediately gratifying but costly in the long term—that piece of chocolate cake (instead of an apple), that afternoon in front of the couch (instead of a visit to the gym). Despite our best intentions, we often fail to meet our lofty goals.

The problem of self-control has puzzled psychologists and behavioral scientists for decades. A great deal of research has identified situations in which self-control failures are likely to happen and tools to help people exercise better control. For instance, research has found that people persist for longer on tasks that require self-control when they know they’ll be paid for their efforts, or when they are told that their work will benefit others (such as helping find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease). These motivating incentives can increase our self-control, at least up to a point.

Entrepreneurs have also become interested in self-control, as is evident from the many diet and exercise apps and gadgets on the market. To take one notable example, on the commitment contract website stickK.com, users put down some money (say, $200) and state a goal they want to achieve (such as to lose ten pounds in a month). They also need to state what will happen to the money if they don’t stick to their commitments (eg, it’ll go to a friend or to a charity they do not like). If they meet their goal, they earn their money back. If they don’t, they lose the money.

Tools like stickK.com can be effective, but they are often difficult to implement; you may need to enlist someone to help monitor your efforts. New research my colleagues and I conducted point to a different solution that may be easier to implement: using rituals.

A ritual is a series of steps we take while attaching some kind of symbolic meaning. Players in all sorts of sports have rituals that involve actions such as eating the same foods in exactly the same order before a game or listening to the same pre-ordered playlist a given number of times. From the way some prepare their coffee to the way people celebrate important life events, like weddings or graduations, rituals are a part of our daily life. And though they may seem useless, or even silly, research has found that rituals are powerful.

In the past, my colleagues and I have found that rituals reduce anxiety before stressful tasks, and improve performance. They allow us to enjoy our family holidays more. And they also give us a greater sense of control after experiencing a loss, whether a loved one or in a lottery. Given the power of rituals, we thought we might test their effectiveness in resisting temptation.