Why Praise is Robbing Your Kids of Their Happiness

Why Praise is Robbing Your Kids of Their Happiness

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Whenever I did something well as a child, my Dad would say, “Oh, look how well you’ve done. I’m so proud of you.”

I don’t do that with my girls.

We shouldn’t be praising our kids.

I can pretty much hear you reeling back from the screen with disbelief “What is this man ON ABOUT?” There’s nothing wrong with a “Good job, son” is there?

“Good job” is probably one of the most wasteful expressions of praise. Not only is it empty, but it’s lazy to boot.

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'Good job' is probably one of the most wasteful expressions of praise. Not only is it empty but it's lazy to boot. Click To Tweet

There’s no inherent value in “good job” or “well done”, it doesn’t do anything for your child’s self-esteem, and what’s worse, it doesn’t teach our children to do anything for the significance of the doing or for their own satisfaction.

I have two daughters and a newborn son. When my little girl comes skipping up to me to show me, her painting, let’s say, what do I do instead?

What’s the opportunity I have right in front of me, with a child who is open and enthusiastic about the world and quite pleased with herself?

I get down to one knee – to her eye level. I say to her:

“How much do you love your painting?

You must be feeling really creative and colourful right now.

Why did you choose those colours?”

I tap on her tiny chest, right where her heart lies and I ask her;

“Wow, how inspired do you feel right now?”

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So, what am I teaching my child? Not that I don’t think she is spectacular, because she is. Not that I don’t adore pretty much everything she does, because I do. Not that I don’t love her painting, because in the way I’ve responded there’s no need for my approval.

She doesn’t need it.

She needs to know how SHE feels about her painting and the process of creating. My opinion is irrelevant.

When you acknowledge children in this way, you encourage them to do things to please themselves, not you as a parent.

It’s a simple shift of mindset and a change in language – putting the importance on her own feelings, getting her to acknowledge her own process, letting her realise her painting, her work, her choices, the way she grows up and chooses to live her life – that’s nothing to do with my approval and everything to do with how she chooses to move through the world.

Because one of the things that happens to us as children is that we learn not to be allowed to feel the things we’re feeling;

“Oh stop it, you’re fine, there’s no need to cry, you’re OK.”

“Oh, I love you in that colour, what are you talking about, you look perfect.” (Wow, imagine the expectation attached to this one!)

“You’re amazing! I’ve never seen a better soccer player/pianist/painter.” (Where does a kid go from here?)

Instead of trying to buffer our children up, how about we teach them to acknowledge their own feelings:

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“Gosh, I can remember being that hurt. You must just feel like you want to run away. Tell me about it.”

“What don’t you like about it? What can I help you change?”

“What do you feel about the way you kicked that goal/played that piece/used colour here? How did that make you feel?”

There is research to show that when we praise kids for their ability, kids become more cautious. They avoid challenges.

Teaching our children to listen to themselves and giving them the language (like the word “inspired”) means they learn to verbalise their feelings.

You’re lending them the weight of powerful language which gives the acknowledgement even more meaning.

You’re laying foundations for young adults who can articulate themselves, who ask permission from themselves, rather than the people around them – to ascertain if the decision they are making works with their own ethical compass.

You’re empowering a new generation of young people to regulate and negate feelings of distortion and truth.

In the future, people who can acknowledge and articulate feelings become successful partners – because they’re practiced at holding the space for their spouse to feel what they are feeling, verbalise what’s going on for them, and respecting their own emotions.

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When you consider these traits, you may also realise that these are also the qualities of good leaders – instead of invading a space when they’re dealing with another point of view, they respect the other party enough to allow them to articulate their experience and beliefs with empathy.

Our job as parents is to create empathetic human beings, not little people who don’t know how to be without someone telling them they’re doing OK.

My Dad praised me from a place of pure love. I don’t praise my daughters from exactly the same place.

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Discover the 3 SIMPLE STEPS that will finally allow you to live the life of your dreams.

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About Mitch Behan

Mitch Behan, Founder and Director of MJB Seminars, is a master educator in the area of personal transformation. With over 18 years’ experience in the Personal Development industry he has transformed the lives of thousands of people worldwide. He is a passionate, brilliant and talented public speaker that has an innate knowing and ability to whisper to another human soul and awaken the greatness that lies within us all. Mitch is a true teacher renowned for walking his walk and talking his talk.

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One response to “Why Praise is Robbing Your Kids of Their Happiness”

  1. Semra Anne Ataman says:

    I kinda feel like this us internal dialogue i need to be using with myself, thanks guys!

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