Tone Down the Cheerleading
I dole out kudos to my three children the way I do tissues for runny noses -- often and abundantly ("Great job!" "You're so smart!"). I want them to believe that they can do anything they set their mind to. But my constant ego-boosting may have the opposite effect: stifling their self-confidence and motivation and turning them into praise addicts who need constant affirmation.
In her seminal research on motivation, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Stanford University and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, discovered that children who are commended for their results ("What a beautiful picture") or ability ("You're so good at this!") tend to fall apart when things suddenly don't come easily. However, kids who are stroked for their effort ("You must have worked really hard at that!") are much more likely to persevere, because they equate achievement with hard work, Dr. Dweck says.
For an over-praiser like me, these findings helped me realize I could be giving my kids more positive reinforcement. Instead of saying, "You're an amazing artist" every time my daughter, Livia, 4, shows me her latest masterpiece, I should say something like, "I can see you took a lot of care with that drawing." And rather than complimenting my 7-year-old son, Jacob, on what a great basketball player he is, I would motivate him more by pointing out, "All that practice has made you so much better at dribbling."