The Unintentional ‘Put-Down’ Praise Counselor’s Corner by Sharon Scott, LPC LMFT
The Unintentional “Put-Down” Praise
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
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I’ve devoted the past several columns to the importance of praise’giving kind words to our children (or others) for chores done well, appearance, good attitude, wonderful character, and anything else that you might want to reinforce. Praise makes the child feel good and increases the likelihood that the praised event will occur again. It is one of the very best ways to help the child with self-esteem.
In our efforts to reinforce our children and teach them well, we sometimes add a little too much to the praise. We add that extra lecture, if you will, at the end that we think makes the praise stronger, but has the exact opposite effect. For example, a parent might say to the child, ‘Your room looks wonderful’you did a great job putting your toys away. See’you get to go out and play quicker when you are this fast.’ The second sentence is not needed. In fact, in can totally negate the praise sentence as the child will feel lectured’once again.
Use of the word ‘better’ in a sentence will automatically make the praise negative and not get the desired impact you want for your child. When a parent says, ‘Suzy Q, your handwriting is getting a lot better,’ that is actually a negative statement and most children will feel not good enough. A good praise here would be to notice something specific that you like about her handwriting: ‘I noticed that you are leaving good margins and spacing your letters nicely. It looks very neat!’
Another common negative way of giving praise is by putting add-ons to the end of the sentence thinking it will encourage and motivate. For example, ‘Wow Billy Bob! You made an A on your English paper. I’m proud of your efforts! Let’s keep up the good work!’ The last sentence is actually a lecture’a way of putting pressure on the future’and is less than encouraging.
Praise has no references to the past or to the future. Praise is about right NOW and is always 100% positive.
Excerpted in part from her classic guide for parents: Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed. (
Copyright ©2018, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.
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