What Kind of Praise Helps Children Take Up New Challenges?

How Do You Praise Your Kids?

There is significant controversy about the use of praise. Some experts believe that children need to be praised almost daily to build their self-esteem. Others say, to the contrary, that too much praise makes children overly reliant on other people’s validation to sustain healthy self-esteem.

This controversy makes it seem like a no-win solution. What are parents to do if they want their children to step beyond their comfort zone to take up new challenges and enjoy learning?

The Process of Praising

The newest view steps outside the controversy of too much or too little praise. The issue becomes what exactly should be praised?

In the past, parents frequently praised children’s talents and good grades. This new view says to look at how the child goes about their work and how they (the children) evaluate the benefits of the tasks they take on. In other words, praising the process of the work becomes the focus.

4 Ways to Praise the Process of Learning That Instills a Desire to Take on New Challenges

  1. Praise perseverance.

When a child believes a task is over their head, some fear failure and try minimally or not at all. Others see this as a challenge they seek to overcome. The difference in these two groups of children is whether perseverance has been valued and praised by their parents and teachers.


So, each time you notice your child persevering at a new task, comment on that determination, not the degree of success at the task. Children will soon learn that perseverance is a value that is a benefit of learning in itself.


  1. Praise persistent effort.

When anyone faces a new challenge there is self-doubt. Rising above the self-doubt by ceaseless effort in facing the unknown should be praised. The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is the process of learning that should be praised.


A good grade that takes a lot of effort seems more praiseworthy than a good grade because you have a natural ability and the assignment is easy for you. If you have a talent and exceed your own expectations due to great effort, that is much more praiseworthy.


  1. Praise rigor.

Rigor refers to thoroughness. To be thorough, a child needs to plan, organize, and create alternative ways of attacking a problem.

Many children need a great deal of instruction on how to organize a lot of information, especially new information. This can be taught well by teachers and parents who are good at finding main ideas, creating categories, and recognizing how ideas relate to each other.  But it takes rigor to learn these skills. A rigorous child should be praised.


  1. Praise learning for its own sake.

There is a great deal of emphasis on getting good grades and high standardized test scores. There are reasons for this that have value. But they don’t encourage children to take on new challenges, in fact, they may hold children back because they worry more about their grades than what they are learning.


Learning because it is fun, enriches our minds, and builds our curiosity and creativity which is much more exciting. Learning for pleasure should be praised.


The Benefits of Praising the Process of Learning


The benefits of taking on new challenges are remarkable. They instill the desire to try new things, encourage self-confidence, foster inspiration, and create a sense of happiness and well-being! How can you beat that!


Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is an author and psychoanalyst who specializes in infant, child, adolescent and adult psychotherapy. She is a former college and elementary school teacher who loves learning about learning. Read her enlightening book on Amazon, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, to learn even more about how kids learn and  solving problems with kids.