Tammy Jacobs, L.C.S.W., explains if it's possible for a parent to praise a child too much.
Tammy Jacobs, L.C.S.W.:
Is over-praising your kids a good thing or can it be detrimental to your children? Praising children is, I guess better than the opposite and cutting them down and yelling at them and making them feel shameful. However, when you’re praising a child and it’s an empty praise, it’s ‘good job, way to go, you’re awesome, excellent’ – a child can’t always own that as they are good or they are excellent and sometimes what happens is they will start questioning themselves. “Wait a minute, good? I’m not good. Excellent? I’m not excellent.”
And sometimes you have children that have had a traumatic or even just a fight or an argument with somebody and in that situation they have downloaded that they’re a bad child. So any time they are told that they are good they replay in their mind those incidents or those trauma events that they are bad. So in that moment when you’re an adult or a parent trying to tell them that they’re good, they’re actually then beating themselves up internally in their dialogue. So just when you think you’re doing well by praising your child they might inadvertently start beating themselves up and then you’re having the opposite happen than what you wished.
One way that you deal with making sure that your praise is not empty is that you start by just giving them basic recognition for what you see them doing. So if you really wanted to tell your child ‘good job,’ what’s good in that moment? Give them that irrefutable evidence that you see and that they then can go, look and see and be like, “Oh, yeah, well I guess that is good about me,” and even if they can’t say that’s good about me they can at least acknowledge, here in this moment these are things that I’m doing and this person says that they are good so maybe I’m good, maybe there’s a small ounce of me that’s good, and each child that’s going to take, whether that child learns that on the first time or the 15th time, is that child’s process and so empty praise can end up being detrimental in the sense that they then beat themselves up.
So, for us as an adult or parent it’s more of our job to provide them with the irrefutable evidence to slowly build up that inner wealth so that they can come to their own conclusion that they’re good.
About Tammy Jacobs, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.:
Tammy Jacobs is a licensed clinical social worker and child and family therapist in Mesa, Arizona. She specializes in parenting, specifically working with difficult children and teens. Tammy's number one approach is The Nutured Heart Approach developed by Howard Glasser.