2017 / 5 June

When and how much to praise children?

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Image about how parents paise children

Recently, I was forced to watch this movie, Grown Ups -2, by my kids. They are aged 10 and 12. I found the movie hilarious and thanked my kids for forcing us to watch it as a family. One scene that I liked and that portrays the modern parents very well and how they praise children:


A lady is showing various number cards to a child. She asks,’ what’s five plus seven?


The child replies,’ Twenty.’


‘Wow, well done,’ the lady encourages the child. I thought this would be one-off affair. But the child answers wrong every time and the lady praises again and again. Initially, I thought that she was just a nanny trying to kill time. My son told laughing,’ She is actually his mother.’ I was surprised.


Next scene shows the result of this way of teaching. The kid was riding to his school on a bicycle. He shouts enthusiastically,’ Hey guys, it’s 8 o’clock already and the school starts at 8.20, that means we have forty minutes to reach the school.’


I leave the conclusion it to your interpretation. There can be arguments both ways. The positive way to look at things would be – Let’s encourage the child at any cost. It’s not an earth shattering event if the young child calculated time wrongly.


The realistic way of looking at it would be – Let’s not rebuke the child for being wrong. We can be loving and tell him the mistake in a caring way. So that he doesn’t come across as a loser in front of the outside world.


In last decade or so, as I have gone through my own parenting phase and closely observed other parents at the school, the park and the housing complex, I have noticed parents are resistant to the idea of correcting a child. In fact, they go to the other extreme of praising unnecessarily.


No doubt that positive statements have a much better effect on a child than negative statements. Still, a wrong or incorrect behavior needs to be corrected. Otherwise, it makes the child weak and unable to face the outside world.


Few years back, one child spitted on my mother while she was taking her evening walk. The child’s mother was accompanying him and refused to say anything to the child. When my mother, being old-fashioned in these matters, asked her to at least explain to the child that it was not a good thing to do, her reply was,’ Auntie, I cannot prohibit my child from doing anything. It is not good for his self-confidence.’ This kind of blind approval gives rise to arrogance which may not work in the child’s favour later in life.


Self-confidence at the cost of what? In future, if such a child does the same thing to another grown up or another child on the street, he may well end up getting beaten up. I understand that the young ones may have difficulty understanding it but the parent at least should make an effort to explain.


Kaira got her 7th std exam grades and she was ecstatic. She had received three A’s and four B’s. As she showed the gradesheet to her father, he hugged her and said,’ Very well done.’ Soon, the gradesheet was filed away but her father called all the grand-parents to tell them that Kaira had done very well in the exams. Till the next final exams, her parents praised her for academics in front of every visitor. Agreed that she had done well but was still fifteenth or so in her class of thirty-five. If one were to look at all sections, she was fiftieth out of one hundred and eighty students.


Again, it is a subjective issue. Praise children by all means but don’t make her sit on a house of cards. Kaira’s parents should have praised her for doing well and then started focusing on next steps in her talent development. Praising children more than required sets them for disappointment later.


Children are super-intelligent and they can make sense out of their success and failure. Best is to praise them for genuine achievements and offer your help for improvement. The world is not a make-believe place where your child will become the best if you told her so.


She has to believe that she is the best and that belief needs to be followed by action. In case of Kaira, the parents should convey that they were happy with her performance and they were willing to work with her if she wanted to improve her ranking.


Most of the time, the child doesn’t care whether he is the topper in the class. He wants to win the approval of the parents. You need to keep giving the approval for all positive achievements but need to correct harmful behavior.


The child prodigies in any field are subject to immense pressure due to parental expectations and praise. Samar was doing well in swimming. The parents also took it seriously and started sending him to senior level coaching classes. If anybody visited their home, the parents would keep showing off his swimming medals and keep praising him. Slowly, he started feeling pressurized. Swimming no longer remained a pleasurable activity but became a way to win parental approval. The pressure became so acute that he gave up swimming one fine day.


Even if the child is not a prodigy, some parents take it upon themselves to be the proxy salespersons for the child. You need to teach the child how to be a salesperson for herself and not do the marketing on her behalf.


Tread carefully when you praise children. Healthy praise builds self-esteem but blind praise builds arrogance, making the child weak from inside. For more on this topic and backing of scientific research, do read Parenting: How to Build Self-Esteem – Not Arrogance  – In Kids | Time.com.


My book Happiness is All We Want! aims to make you happy wherever you are and successful in whatever you do.

Feel free to leave your comments and write to me at info@ashutoshm.com



Ashutosh Mishra - YouthCoach & Author

A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.

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  • Very well written, Ashutosh. Most of the parents don’t realise this.

  • Nimmu Kishnani / June 6, 2017 AT 10:09 AM

    As well meaning as this was I do not believe that parents knowingly would be so naive to allow indulgence with abandon . Their own ignorance and immature mental development is what needs attention n education .

  • Good read.I also feel that even if your child excels, it is important to praise the “efforts” and not the actual grade, which would motivate the child rather than make him feel that he has achieved it all.

  • Girija Deshpande / June 6, 2017 AT 7:51 PM

    Parenting is like walking on a tight rope. To strike a balance is tough. Parenting is not just intuition. It is not a natural skill. We can learn what to do and not to do. But no one can teach you what to feel. If from within, you do not feel the need to discipline a child or encourage a child, even if you do it, the child can see through the fake. Right attitude comes from more and more exposure to experiences on parenting on such forums.

  • Surya Rawka / June 6, 2017 AT 11:09 PM

    Hey well written. Quite apt for new age parents. The new age parents usually have one child who they try to shield from real pressures of life. They end up making kids very sensitive which makes it difficult for them to deal with frustrations later. At times i feel we pay so much attention to our kids demands. We grew rough n tough as they were so many children around.



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