When Do Compliments Become Harmful?

What are you really good at doing?

In what areas are you weakest?

Most of us find these sorts of questions difficult or at least uncomfortable. Very few people want to appear either boastful or self-defeating. As an author, speaker, and business owner I have had to learn to sell myself. I’ve had to answer these questions honestly with others in interview situations. It’s important to recognize what we are good at, using our gifts and talents, to be successful in our careers.

What about our children? Do they know where they excel? We as parents have been told to constantly build our children up with praise to increase their confidence and self-esteem. Experts have urged us to feed kids compliments for every little thing they do. Too much of a good thing can be harmful.

Yes, we need to make sure our children know we love them. And we should tell them we are proud of them when they do a great job. But we also have a responsibility to help them develop self-awareness and self-confidence. Schoolwork is a great place to start, as it’s a child’s vocation. Begin with asking questions.

Here is a typical scenario.

You’re scanning your son’s grades online and notice the teacher just posted the scores from the recent math test. He received his first A. You are so proud of his accomplishment and cannot wait until he walks in the door after school. The desire is to tell him what a great kid he is, what a wonderful job he’s done, why he scored better this time because he studied for more than a day, because he went in for help, and… STOP! He needs to determine why he did so well, on his own.

Your heart can be happy but start the conversations with “I saw an update online for your math grade today. Please tell me about it.” Then listen. Follow up by asking why he thinks he did better this time. With each reason, agree and praise his efforts. Give him a hug! He’ll know you’re proud of him.

This type of interaction, rather than gushing praise, will help children develop self-awareness and bring about a change in study habits. As a result, confidence will soar!

Megan Stone

If you want to read more – Dr. Peggy Drexler, PhD supports this idea in an article for Psychology Today.


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