How You Praise Your Kids Could Affect Their Success in Life

A study sheds light on the impact of how you praise your kids. Learn what it found and get tips on praising your kids.

Does exclaiming “great job!” when your child completes a task help set them up for success in the future? New research says it might.

A study recently published in the journal Educational Psychology found a “linear” relationship between teacher praise for students and on-task behavior. The more teachers doled out positive comments — things like “way to go!” or “well done, class” — the better students performed as far as staying on task, an article at reports.

In fact, on-task behavior improved 20% to 30% in classes with a “high praise-to-reprimand ratio,” meaning much fewer reprimands than positive remarks.

“Behavior that is reinforced tends to increase,” lead study author Paul Caldarella at Brigham Young University said in a statement. “So, if teachers are praising students for good behavior – such as attending to the teacher, asking for help appropriately, etc. – it stands to reason that this behavior will increase, and learning will improve.”

For many parents, that advice probably sounds about right. After all, many parents are familiar with the idea of positive reinforcement and how rewarding kids for good behavior can go farther than punishing the bad behavior.

Not to be confused with “bribes,” other research also confirms the importance of praising kids. An article in Parenting Science says studies have found kids benefit from cheerful messages of support. “An enthusiastic exclamation (‘wow!’) or a supportive gesture (like a high five) can engender good feelings. It may also motivate children to try again after a failure (Morris and Zentall 2014),” the article notes.

Tips for praising kids

Ready to add a little more praise into your parenting repertoire? Consider these tips.

  • Watch out for praise like “you’re so smart.” Instead, praise kids for their hard work, which can help build a growth mindset.
  • Don’t be insincere. If your praise is said out of pity or with a sarcastic tone, it may have the opposite effect and end up being harmful, Parenting Science notes.
  • Be specific and descriptive in your praise, which will let your child know that you have been paying attention, Parenting for Brain suggests.
  • Encourage teachers to offer praise. Caldarella said parents might even consider trying to get their child into the class of a teacher who is known for offering praise, reports.
  • Make sure your praise rubs off. Positive self-talk can be beneficial for kids – in fact, one study says it could help them with math.

This post was originally published in February 2020 and is updated regularly.

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