Is it Ever Wrong to Praise Your Child?

by Kevin Leman

“May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that boasts!” Psalm 12:3 NET

We live in a time where parents feel they have to praise everything kids do; no matter what. Whether they make a good effort, a poor effort, a mediocre effort; they get praised. It’s the mentality that everybody on the team gets a trophy. “Everybody’s a winner,” nobody loses. We live in society where kids view reward as their right. Many want to start at the top and not at the bottom. And why wouldn’t they? Just look at the world they live in…


·       Teachers asking their students to call them by their first name.

·       Schools eliminating the honor of having a Valedictorian from graduation ceremonies.

·       High school district policies that dictate a teacher can’t give a grade less than 61%

·       Little leaguers that strike out, followed by the shrieking voice “Great at bat!”

Today parents are driven to make sure their child is happy at every turn.  Now, let me give you just a little quick teaching on praise versus encouragement. Your child has just walked through the door with all A’s on their report card:


The praising parent makes their child’s happiness the all-important goal of their parenting. We really believe in America that praise is good for children. These ideas of enforcing fairness and protecting feelings grew out of the “Great self-esteem movement.” We were dooped by social do-gooders, psychologists, and self-help professionals that it was imperative for kids to feel good about themselves! For proper development, the child must feel good regardless of his effort or ability. While it is important for children to have a healthy self-esteem, we have praised our children into weakness. They now expect that they will always win, always receive praise, and always be rewarded for trying (vs. succeeding).

When the praising parent’s child comes home with all A’s, the response may look like this, “”Oh, we are so proud of you–you are just the best kid in the world, thank you so much for doing that!  Here’s $20 dollar bill!!”

This is verbal praise combined with a financial reward.  I can hear it now… “What’s wrong with that?”  This is our society’s failed practice of assigning a dollar value to outcomes. You’re conditioning your child to choose activities that have financial reward, and developing the expectation that they SHOULD receive a financial reward when they do something they are expected to do!  Praise goes right to the actor, where encouragement goes to the act.
If you want your children to feel good about themselves how about a different approach?


The encouraging parent promotes a child’s self esteem from the inside out. So this time when little Buford walks in the door with straight A’s, the encouraging parent says, “Wow good job! It’s clear to me that you really enjoy learning. It looks like all the hard work and studying you have done this past semester has really paid off! That must make you feel real good inside!”  Do you see the difference. It’s subtle, It’s not, “Oh, what a wonderful kid you are.” It’s, “Your effort, your extra studying has really paid off.”

That is the difference between praise & reward, and true parental encouragement. Your child needs that encouragement–Vitamin E if you will–and you are the best provider of it.

This week look for ways that you can encourage your kids without going over the top and praising them.  So next time, when Buford strikes out…you might greet him with a simple, “Hey, rough day at the plate, eh? 0 for 3. Hey, you know, I’m going to be home early on Thursday night and Wednesday night, too. Come to think of it, if you would like me to take you down to the park and throw you some pitches, I’d be more than glad to do that, if you think that would help.”

Go be an encourager.  Want to listen to me speak on this topic, click here. Used by permission.

You may also like

Update Required Flash plugin