Expert reveals that praising your child is sometimes a bad thing
Telling a child they're the best might seem like a good thing, but it can backfire.
Hands up whose child is regularly told they're the best boy/girl in the house.
Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids explained to Today's Parent that children who hear these phrases begin to internalise that they should be able to get things right, every time, on the first try.
In fact, phrases like 'you're so smart' and 'you're the best' can set them up for little emotional falls along the way, as Markham explains: "Rather than seeing their brains as muscles that grow stronger with use and their current skill sets as temporary, everything feels fixed."
Markham feels so strongoly about this, that she asked her mother-in-law to stop testing her son on the colours and saying, 'You’re so smart', when he got one right. “Sooner or later, she’s going to get to a colour he doesn’t know, and what happens then?” He’ll think, 'I guess I’m not smart after all.'"
Similarly, a dad she knows routinely tells his daughter that she’s the best dancer. “She’s only five—she’s not the best dancer. Despite parents’ best intentions, what children hear is, 'I only love you when...'
"When we feel that conditionality, it really can shape who we become.”
So, what does Markham suggest we stay instead?
She advises praising the effort, not just the results, but also, "don’t forget to also speak to your child’s pleasure. Phrases like, 'You are really enjoying dancing these days, aren’t you?' draw children into conversation instead of evaluating them."
She concludes: "The best kind of encouragement is to enjoy what your child is doing. There’s an aspect of building a core sense of self, based on being recognised by others. Only responding to kids with specificity and intentionality does the trick. There are no shortcuts."