Are You Praising Your Child Wrong?

It’s natural for parents to want to shower their children with praise. After all, we want them to feel good about themselves and be successful in life, right? But new research shows that we might be doing more harm than good with our constant compliments. Turns out, praising kids about how smart they are can actually backfire, leading to increased anxiety and lower self-esteem. So, what’s a parent to do? Learn how and when to give authentic praise to help your child thrive.

How Could It Do Harm?

You may be wondering how praising your child could do any harm. But, the way the praise is given and the consistency matter a lot when dealing with a child struggling with academics. Praise is a powerful tool in motivating children and can help them feel competent and confident, encouraging them to persevere in the face of challenges. However, praise also has the potential to do more harm than good. If praise is focused on a child’s ability or results, it can create a fixed mindset where children believe that their intelligence or talent is the only reason for their success. This can lead to children feeling discouraged when encountering difficulties, as they believe their lack of ability is to blame.

On the other hand, praise that focuses on a child’s effort can foster a growth mindset, where children believe that their abilities can be developed through hard work and practice. This type of praise encourages children to keep trying even when they encounter setbacks, as they know they can improve. As a result, praising a child’s effort is more likely to promote long-term success than praising their ability or results.

A recent study looked at the effect of praise on children, specifically how they are praised from ages 1 to 3. Five years later, the researchers measured the children’s mindset. It was found that the more the parents praised the process (effort, not intelligence) in their younger years, the more likely they were to have a growth mindset five years later. 

What To Say?

Saying things to your child like “you are so smart” may seem like a good idea, but it can ultimately set them up for challenges later if they begin to struggle. If they have repeatedly been told that they are smart, they may lack perseverance when math no longer comes easy to them. And this day will come. Even if your child sails through math concepts with no problems, more difficult equations will likely start to slow them down once they start getting older. 

You will want to praise your child with phrases such as “Great job putting in the effort to show your work on your test,” or “I am so happy you took your time on that problem and didn’t give up!” Praise their time management, effort, and persistence. Do not praise their intellect. Before praising your child, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Does this encourage learning, growth, and the ability to accept challenges?”.

Letting Your Child Struggle

When children are faced with a challenging problem, they should productively struggle to come to the answer. This allows them to take time to solve the problem and look at their mistakes along the way to learn from them. Letting your child struggle productively with helpful praise will help them in the long run. 

Children who feel comfortable struggling in a productive way may take a break but will ultimately come back to the problem and attempt new strategies until a solution is identified. 

On the other hand, children who enter the destructive struggle zone often run out of strategies and no longer believe they can solve the problem. Once a child doubts their ability, they no longer care to solve the problem. This is where reinforcing praise for a child’s effort can come in. 

Encouraging a child to take risks, fail, and learn from their mistakes is all part of good praise. At some point in life, we are all going to fail at something. But powering through failure and sadness is how to experience success. Homework is a great place to encourage your child into a productive struggle so they can handle future problems with ease. 

One of the most challenging things for students to do in school is to develop confidence and comfort with math. That’s why our programs are designed specifically around closing skill gaps while supporting them through their learning so they feel more confident. If your child continues to struggle with math, our programs may be able to help.

All of our programs are taught by certified Ontario teachers who can offer differentiated approaches, making it accessible for all learning needs. We focus on the four pillars of math (number sense, operational sense, proportional reasoning, and algebraic reasoning). 

Involving The Parent/Guardian

At Dropkick Math, we offer a unique learning environment that gives the option of involving the parent/caregiver. We believe the relationships between parent, student, and educator are crucial to achieving mastery in mathematics and that learning together achieves lasting success!  Part of this learning environment involves praising a child in their efforts and encouraging a fun and engaging atmosphere. 

So, before you start searching for “math tutor near me,” check out our unique programs that will help build your child’s confidence and set them up for long-term success.  

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