In one of my many Wacky’s classes, we were told that telling a child how “good” they were or how amazing everything was that they did would actually be damaging. “Don’t label your child,” Wacky would say. Instead of them doing a “good job” when they built a tower of blocks, you should praise them for their efforts… their concentration… their architectural ingenuity. Blah blah blah.

Here’s the thing, to some degree, Wackidoo has a point. If you’re constantly telling a child that they’re good, when they do something not so good, they will feel bad. And apparently, there’s something wrong about a child considering themselves to be “bad.” (like they turn into serial killers or something. I have no idea). Anyway, I totally understand how too much praise can actually lead to a child having little self confidence– if their focus is on a result and on a reaction (from a parent). However, as a parent, I find it soooooooo difficult, especially during these developmentally magical and slightly crazy making years, to not kvell over his every move.
For instance, today we (he) spent about 30 minutes tracing in a new book Grandma L got him. Initially, he wanted my help as he didn’t think he could do it (and wasn’t entirely comfortable or sure how he wanted to hold the marker). After a few tries though, he was on his own and tracing all the pictures. Now, I only know what my 3 year old is doing so maybe it’s not so impressive, but to ME, I was floored by his tracing ability. I found it hard not to “Wow” and “That’s so great, Jonah!” him with every stroke.
Do you think everything your child does is magic? How much praise for a child is too much?
… I mean, I was so proud of him, I decided I’d film some of it to send to grandparents and great grandparents who I know would be equally proud of their budding artist, Rhodes Scholar, and future Justin Bieber. (Being a pop culture icon is just as impressive as studying at Oxford these days, isn’t it?) Of course, it didn’t take long until the 3 year old interested in all things poop became entirely DISINTERESTED in mommy’s praises….


I’ll have to figure out a different way to label this sort of behavior…. 😉
Hey! BTW, we’re giving away $150 on Parents Ask to Amazon. Leave a comment on the video, telling us your favorite children’s book and you’ll be entered to win. Oh and ignore my iphone in the shot. I promise it’s not next to me during “quiet, reading time.” 😉
FILED UNDER: A Little Life

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  1. Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
    I think it's totally OK to praise your child if he or she is doing something new, something previously difficult, something he had been scared to try etc. The problem stems from parents who praise a child for every breath she takes, or who say every smudge on paper is a masterpiece and so forth. Kids have to be able to know when they actually have done something great or when they have actually worked hard to achieve something.

    For the record, I think tracing at age 3 is pretty great, too! :)
  2. Thursday, February 24th, 2011
    Jonah seems like a confident kid and he sure knows how to grip that marker!
    Kids need to be able to think for themselves without a steady flow of adult commentary. I've been around kids who expect a reaction for everything that they do and those kids don't seem happy to me... they seem anxious. I get downright snap-ity if people breathe down my neck constantly commenting and critiquing everything I do.
  3. Saturday, February 26th, 2011
    yeah, I have a hard time not gushing over my daughter as well. Of course, I think she's the most brilliant thing ever. And if your mama doesn't think you're amazing, who will? Right? I try not to get carried away, and I try to pay specific attention to things like how she keeps trying till she gets it right, but mostly I'm just in awe of her. And I think she knows it.