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Praising Children

What’s the best amount and kind of praise? Not too much, not too little, but just right. It’s honest, meaningful, deserved, and propels the child forward. With that in mind, how can parents praise young children so as to foster their learning, confidence, motivation, and well-being? What can—or should—parents do?

The following five recommendations provide sensible starting points for parents of little ones:


These are three very important keys to success. Pay heed to what your child is actually doing and learning—and the various steps involved. This involves practicing skills, surmounting obstacles, and participating in appropriate, enjoyable, but stepped-up learning activities. Reinforce these practices as they might apply to different kinds of activities your child engages in, such as assembling puzzles, starting to read, developing motor skills (climbing, riding, swimming, dancing), and taking part in games. Parents can also demonstrate effort, resilience, and passion in relation to their own experiences. Ancient Greek poet Sophocles (496-406 BC) is credited with the words, “Success is dependent on effort.” That message has transcended time and still rings true.


Child development has a lot to do with embracing opportunities and challenges—including creating the former and overcoming the latter. Therefore, parents can acknowledge and celebrate their child’s accomplishments in ways that convey parental pride or excitement—while simultaneously being astute about the here-and-now. Amidst the current COVID-related realities, the “here-and-now” and possibly the “henceforth” may be more challenging than usual.

Here are three suggestions to keep in mind:

  1. Be thoughtful about word choice. The most effective praise is immediate, direct, and genuine. Not delayed, vague, or repetitive.
  2. Consider the potential consequences and the benefits of your words.
  3. Pick a suitable opportunity and place to communicate praise. This can differ depending on circumstances, including your child’s age, emotional state, attention, and receptivity.


Not all children are receptive to praise. It may make them feel self-conscious, embarrassed, or even doubtful. Be aware of their feelings. Children may also worry about the advent of much higher expectations. (Don’t pressure.) And, some kids are not sure how to respond to even a simple compliment. (Let them know that a smile or a quick “thank you” can suffice.) Psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore writes briefly about children’s possible discomfort in relation to praise. Click here.

Dr. Joanne Foster

Dr. Joanne Foster, an acclaimed author and educator, has dedicated over 35 years to gifted education and child development. With expertise in psychology and special education, her work empowers parents and educators, fostering creativity and high-level learning in children and teens. Dr. Foster has written countless articles, and several books—the most recent being Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids.

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