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Western society is built in such a way that it emphasizes the importance of awards and achieving, but what we don’t realize is how damaging this mentality is to our children. What we are really telling them is that if they don’t achieve a certain standard, they really don’t matter. This is so demotivating for children who see themselves as never living up to society’s expectations. Even if they did succeed once, the pressure to achieve that same standard in the future can cripple their efforts.

Rewards a be a great way of achieving temporary compliance, but they take the focus away from what is really important (Pocock, 2017). Instead of thinking about what they are achieving, they will be thinking about the prize they will receive. Eventually, the prize may lose its appeal, and with it goes the motivation. If you take away the prize, you take away the motivation. What we want to do is to build character, not compliance. We want our children to do the right thing because it feels good to do and they receive a sense of accomplishment. We can do this by changing the focus to the process rather than the destination (Pocock, 2017).

The way we speak to our children makes a difference. Phrases like “You did that perfectly,” and “Wow, you are so smart!” enforce a standard that isn’t achievable.

What can we do instead?

Focus on character traits. Praise them in ways that encourage them to develop. This can include phrases like:

“Look how hard to worked at that!”

“You are so determined.”

“I can see you really tried your best.”

Put the focus on their effort, and they will continue to want to excel.


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Pocock, J. (2017) Are we spoiling our kids with too much praise? JSTOR,…/

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