Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Praise?

For parents, most of us will say “well done” without even thinking about it. But research shows general praise like this may not help our children learn about what it is we want to encourage. Being specific is the key to promoting positive behaviour, self-efficacy and resilience in children.

A key to giving praise is to understand the three types of praise – descriptive, praise for effort and persistence, and trait-based.

Descriptive praise

Descriptive praise involves making positive statements to someone about something they did.
• “I like it when you …”
• “Thank you for…”
• “You’ve done a great job of…”

Descriptive praise can make it more likely that a child will engage in positive behaviours and it can also strengthen the quality of their social interactions.

Praise for effort and persistence

Praising a child for effort and persistence can help children build a view of themselves as having malleable abilities that can be impacted by their effort and persistence. They are less likely to think their abilities are fixed and more willing to work harder to improve areas they can change.

“I can see that you’re finding it hard to solve the puzzle but you didn’t give up and you solved it.”

Trait-based praise

Trait-based praise such as “wow, clever boy!” can be useful in specific situations for a limited time or for the early stages of skill acquisition, such as an infant taking their first steps.However, trait-based praise can also be detrimental to children’s learning development and wellbeing.

Tip! To set your child up for success in school and life, try to consciously build your skills in descriptive praise and praise for effort and persistence.