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  • Writer's pictureAlison McDonald

There Are Many Ways To Praise Our Kids!

We all know that words are powerful, and that it feels good to be encouraged. There’s a lot of research that points towards the importance of praising our children, but there’s often a lack of information on how to do so effectively.

In today’s blog, we take a look at two specific types of praise; praising for ability, and praising for effort.

Praising for ability often comes from the mindset where a child feels they have a ‘fixed ability’ or natural talent and don’t have control over their performance. This type of praise can make a child feel that they are being encouraged for something that they didn’t need to try at, and suggests that their results are more important than their effort.

Here are two examples of this form of praise:

  1. “You’re such a great runner, Olivia!”

  2. “You’re very clever, Avi.”

This type of praise is a commonly recognised way of encouraging a child when they experience success. And it can be great for those moments.

But what happens when your child isn’t succeeding in the same way?

Research shows that praising a child for their ability when they’re struggling can actually be ineffective and sometimes damaging. Other studies have even shown that praising in this way can lead to a child feeling as though they need to cheat in order to succeed and live up to the praise. So what can we be saying to our kids in these moments instead?

This is where praising for effort comes into play! This type of praise is about having a ‘growth mindset’, where a child knows that by working hard they can develop the skills they need. This approach is more focused on helping children develop their skills despite their outcome/success at any one time.

Examples of praising effort include:

  1. “I can see that you were trying so hard, and I’m proud.”

  2. “You did a great job at concentrating, even when it got challenging.”

  3. “When we work hard, we do great work!”

Affirming our children in this way helps them to have a love of learning, to focus on the processes behind work, and to develop greater persistence and resilience after setbacks.

Let’s give it a go!

Certified Practising Speech Pathologist

If you have any questions, comments, or would like to know more about our services, you can call our clinic on (02) 4948 9800 or send an email to

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Research referenced and further reading:

Koestner, R., Zuckerman, M., & Koestner, J. (1989). Attributional Focus of Praise and Children’s Intrinsic Motivation: The Moderating Role of Gender. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 15(1), 61–72.

Mueller, C., & Dweck, C. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 75(1), 33-52. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.75.1.33

Gunderson, E., Gripshover, S., Romero, C., Dweck, C., Goldin-Meadow, S., & Levine, S. (2013). Parent Praise to 1- to 3-Year-Olds Predicts Children’s Motivational Frameworks 5 Years Later. Child Development, 84(5), 1526-1541. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12064

Gunderson, Elizabeth A.,Sorhagen, Nicole S.,Gripshover, Sarah J.,Dweck, Carol S.,Goldin-Meadow, Susan,Levine, Susan C.

Gunderson, E. A., Sorhagen, N. S., Gripshover, S. J., Dweck, C. S., Goldin-Meadow, S., & Levine, S. C. (2018). Parent praise to toddlers predicts fourth grade academic achievement via children’s incremental mindsets. Developmental Psychology, 54(3), 397–409.

Zhao, L., Heyman, G., Chen, L., & Lee, K. (2017). Praising Young Children for Being Smart Promotes Cheating. Psychological Science, 28(12), 1868-1870. doi: 10.1177/0956797617721529

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