When your children master something in life, from learning to tie their shoes to getting a driver’s license, your job as a parent is to show that you admire their accomplishment.
According to Laurence Steinberg, author of The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting (Simon & Schuster), praising your children teaches them that learning and achieving are inherently valuable in life.
Think about your own childhood, and you’ll probably remember that some of your happiest experiences in life have been when you were recognized for something you had accomplished—and some of your most sour moments have occurred because no one recognized or seemed to care about what you had achieved.
It doesn’t really matter what the achievement is, Steinberg says, as long as you let your children know that you think their achievements are marvelous. Remember this advice for giving praise that motivates your child to succeed:
• Make your praise as accomplishment-specific as possible. You’ll want to say, “You’ve done a great job on your science experiment,” and not, “I love it that you are so good at science.” The second statement links your affection for the child to the accomplishment—not something you
want to do.
• Connect your praise to the effort, not the child’s abilities. You want to reinforce the idea that hard work pays off, not that your child is a naturally gifted person who doesn’t have to work hard.
• Praise accomplishments, not grades. Your words should reflect that you are proud of the achievement, not a grade or rating that someone else has given the work. Tell your child that you’re proud of how well he or she is doing in science class, for example, not just that he or she received an A.
• Don’t compare achievements. Learning and success shouldn’t be a competition against siblings or classmates. Emphasize the child’s work without criticizing anyone else’s.