Parents usually praise their children wrongly – “It’s manipulation”

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Of: Alina Schroeder


Parents often give false praise to their children. To prevent this, a few points must be observed. (Icon image) © Mint Images/Imago

“Super”, “class”, “fantastic”: many parents often appreciate praising their children. But it can be harmful to the child’s development.

Kassel – “Wow, you did a great job” – parents often hear praise like this. Whether they are on the playground, doing crafts or doing well in school, many children are literally overwhelmed by praise from mom and dad. However, this can also have disadvantages for the child, as experts explain.

Because: Not all praise is beneficial. As the Dutch psychologist Eddie Brummelman observed in a long-term study, excessive praise can be a possible reason for the child to develop narcissistic sides. What is meant by this, however, is not the amount of recognition expressed, but rather the manner in which it is given.

Praise the children: Parents often get this wrong

When praise is given, mistakes can therefore be made, which can damage the child’s personality development enormously. Excessive and superficial praise, for example, can increase the child’s expectation pressure rather than boosting self-esteem. This was also emphasized by the psychologist Johanna Graf, co-founder of the Nuremberg Institute for the Strengthening of Educational Competence, in an interview with time.

About the appreciation after a good school grade, she explained: “Excessive praise and praise that refers to the person’s abilities does not lead to an inflated self-esteem in most people, but to an enormous pressure of expectations. A lower grade is then experienced as a personal failure.” A more appropriate reaction is to praise the effort behind it. According to Graf, you can say, for example: “I’m happy for you, I saw how much you practiced.” But the zeitgeist also has an impact on children’s development: according to a psychologist, they are becoming increasingly unhappy.

According to Graf, however, it is unnecessary to praise the child for every swing on the playground. What the child needs from the parents at this moment is only attention. “Look into his eyes and you will see his joy and rejoice with him. The child feels it,” said the psychologist.

Targeted praise or misbehavior of the child? What consequences does it have?

Some parents also follow this pattern: positive behavior in the child is praised, bad behavior is punished. But according to Graf, this approach to education is absolutely not appropriate. “One way or another is manipulation,” she explained. “There is a reward for good behavior and a punishment for bad behavior. Like circus monkeys.”

Finally, both techniques are used to show the child that the parents’ affection and love are conditional. To make mom and dad proud and happy, “it will try to behave ‘right’ as often as possible,” as the psychologist explains. Ultimately, this can lead to the child’s behavior mainly trying to meet the expectations of others.

Avoid overvaluing: How to properly praise your children

Now you are wondering what is the best way to praise children? Like the portal writes, three points play an important role:

  • Honesty and credibility: Although they have little life experience, children have a sense of whether recognition is real or not. If it is not honestly meant, the praise loses its positive effect.
  • Precision: Mere sayings such as “good”, “bravo” or “well done” are intended to express the parents’ enthusiasm, but the child does not know what was specifically praised. Therefore, it helps to polish the rose by going into details. Instead of simply saying “that’s a nice picture,” sentences like “you chose the colors well.” more suitable.
  • Praise effort instead of skill: In many cases, emphasis is placed on the fact that a child has done something really well, for example getting a good grade or doing something nice. But instead of praising the ability, parents should mention the effort behind it. This increases motivation. An example sentence is: “You really tried.”

Praise is important to children and should be given when the situation is appropriate. However, it is not significant. According to Graf, “praise is like fertilizer – a nice addition.” But in order for children to be able to develop optimally, they first of all need “time, attention and tenderness”. (asc)

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