While it may be tempting to praise our child’s every move, the truth is, our children aren’t going to excel at everything. If we fail prey to the trap of putting our children on a pedestal for every scribbled crayon drawing or handing out trophies for every failed somersault, we may just be keeping our children from realizing their potential. Instead of dolling out praise 24/7, we can focus on learning to identify and describe our child's specific accomplishments and strengths.
Be honest. Kidshealth.org recommends being truthful with your kids. We can't all be good at everything. Share your own successes and disappointments with your child to help him realize his own skills and talents. Even something small like, "I can't whistle, but I can make the best cookies ever!" will do the trick.
Turn the tables. Your child may be so used to hearing your praise, he may not even realize exactly what it is that he is doing so well. Turn the tables and ask little Johnny what he thinks he did well at preschool that day. Prompt him by asking him if he shared his toys at play time or answered a question for the teacher. Talking with your child will help you both define his strengths. His answers may even surprise you and open your eyes to thinking about his strengths in a new light.
Associate emotion. Help your child to identify which emotion he feels when he does something well. Scored a goal at soccer practice? Built an entire Lego tower all by himself? Shared his toys with his younger sister? Talk about how his accomplishment made him feel — it will help cement that behavior in the future.
Don’t compare. For a useful life-long skill, teach your little one to avoid comparing her accomplishments. If she notices that a friend can write her letters more neatly, guide her in congratulating her friend, then prompt her to name something that she does well. For example, "Wow, Sarah did a great job writing her letters! Can you show me how well you can color this picture?" Likewise, as a parent or educator, don't get caught up in the comparison game. Focus on what each child can do instead.
Be creative. No one said you have to stick to the same stale praises, so be original. Award your child with the “Best Silly Song Singer” prize or name them “Queen Awesome at Going Potty” for the day. Take the seriousness out of it and encourage your child to do the same.