The power in praising children

With Children's Day just past, this is an opportune time to evaluate how children are validated and appreciated in our families and society.

Praise is essential in helping children feel loved and accepted.

Intentional and appropriate praise are key for a child's development in helping them become confident, compassionate and resilient individuals.

According to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck's research on the Growth Mindset, how we praise our children can determine how empowered they feel in successfully managing life's challenges.

This study offers valuable insights on how parents, educators and caregivers can praise children effectively: Praise specific effort made, rather than natural abilities.

For example, if a child has done well for a test, we might say: "The effort you put in to identify the keywords in the questions really paid off for you!", instead of "What a smart child you are!"

Praising children for effort shown gives them a healthy sense of confidence in their abilities and helps them value perseverance.

In the same vein, let's help children to understand that it is okay to fail and, while it is natural to experience disappointment when failure occurs, what is important is how we recover from it.

We need to seize opportunities to be role models and share personal experiences of failure and how we persevered to recover from setbacks.

When we validate a child's tenacious attempts to learn and keep going, especially after they have tasted failure, we help them build resilience.

Praise children for positive character traits displayed.

For instance, the next time one child holds the lift door open for a neighbour or another resists the urge to lash out at a younger sibling for breaking her toy - praise them.

When you observe a child choosing to be kind, self-controlled and self-sacrificial, affirm their other-centredness. Praise is a valuable tool in inculcating positive values.

From our years of interaction with parents who participated in our programmes, including Race to Praise - an annual Children's Day campaign by Focus on the Family Singapore - we observe that parents who shift their emphasis from recognising accomplishments alone to validating children for positive attributes and character traits, are the ones who successfully raise happy, confident and resilient individuals.

These are truly parenting values worth emulating.

Judith Alagirisamy (Ms)

Family Life Specialist

Focus on the Family Singapore