Are You Giving Your Child the Wrong Kind of Praise?

According to a new study, a certain type of praise can lead to higher academic outcomes.

mom and daughter high five
Photo: SaMBa/Shutterstock

Think it's enough to heap constant praise on your kid? Think again. Because according to a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, there's a right way and a wrong way to dish out compliments.

Who knew?

Researchers surveyed 337 South Korean kids in third, fourth, and fifth grades in order to determine how parental praise for schoolwork related to academic achievement and psychological well-being. First they asked the kids to rank how much their parents under- or overpraised them for their performance in school, then had them describe any symptoms of depression they might be feeling.

They also asked the participants' parents questions about how much they praised their children, how closely they kept tabs on how their kids were doing in school, and about their own academic credentials and household income.

Here's what they found: The parents who perceived that they over- or underpraised their children for schoolwork had children who performed worse in school and experienced depression to a greater extent, as compared with children whose parents thought their praise accurately reflected reality.

The researchers additionally discovered that when the children perceived their parents to give over- or underpraise, they also suffered from poor academic performance and emotional distress. Both of these findings underscore the importance of making sure you praise your kids based on actual performance, instead of just piling on the commendations as a motivator.

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"Praise, just like feedback, should be understood as an interactive process, with consideration given to how it is perceived, accepted, and responded to by the recipient," the researchers wrote. "Instigating heart-to-heart talks with children about whether they feel adequately praised could be one way to address existing problems and improve the psychological and academic outcomes."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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