From Positive Parenting Solutions founder and TODAYMoms contributor, Amy McCready “I’m so proud of you!” “You are such a good boy!” “You're so smart!” “You were awesome!” “You are such an amazing artist!” All parents have uttered statements like these to their children at one time or another. It’s good parenting, right? You’re showing your approval and it makes your child feel good. When they feel better about themselves, they’re more confident and they’ll grow up to be independent, successful adults… or so the thinking goes. Actually, while parents who praise their children have all the right intentions, the underlying result from the praise is a child who begins to need, crave and even depend on praise for their motivation, and the “praise junkie” habit is formed. The praise junkie is a person who needs consistent affirmation from others to feel confident in his or her own ability or choices. Younger praise junkies may seek approval from parents and teachers. “Do you like my painting, Daddy?” “Was that a good shot?” As kids get older, the praise junkie will turn to the peer group for approval, which is not what most parents hope for. Praise junkie kids eventually become high maintenance employees -– needing ongoing awards, “at-a-boys” and recognition to affirm that he or she is doing a good job. Fortune 500 companies grapple with how to motivate the praise-seeking employees. Ron Alsop, author of "The Trophy Kids Grow Up," says that “Millennials (born after 1980) seek loads of attention and guidance from employers. An annual or even semiannual evaluation isn't enough. They want to know how they're doing weekly, even daily.” What can parents do to avoid raising praise junkies?Shift the focus from external to internal motivation.
When your child says,”Do you like it Mommy?” Respond with, “Well, it’s more important how YOU feel about it. What do YOU like about your painting?” Instead of letting “I’m so proud of you” roll off your tongue, instead say, “You must be so proud of YOURSELF!” It’s fine that they know you’re proud of them, but it’s more important that they be proud of themselves. We want to instill in them the internal pride and motivation to take on new challenges, to work hard and to make their own decisions even if it is counter to the pressure of the peer group. It may feel awkward at first when parents say, “You must be proud of yourself,” but you’ll notice your child beam with pride – from the inside! Focus onthe processversus the “end product.”
Pay less attention to the end product -– the 'A' on the science test, the goal she scored, the “amazing” painting -- and focus on the process it took to get that.
Avoid Labels – positive or negative. Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and mom to two boys, ages 12 and 14. Positive Parenting Solutions teaches parents of toddlers to teens how to correct misbehaviors permanently without nagging, reminding or yelling. For more information on praise versus encouragement and for free training resources, visit: www.PositiveParentingSolutions.com