Praising Kids Right

1 comment Posted on June 28, 2017

Diane Stortzby Diane Stortz

How many times have you told a child, “Good job!” “You did great!” “You’re so strong,” or “You’re a good helper”?

A lot? Me too. But what if there’s a better way to applaud a child’s accomplishments? There is!

Children DO need encouragement and praise—but let’s make it the right kind. Experts say to praise the process, not the person.

Person praise focuses on the child’s traits, like intelligence or musical ability—“You’re a good boy,” “You’re so smart,” or “You’re really good at this.” Sometimes I say things like this almost without thinking!

One problem with person praise is that it reduces motivation; children begin to feel their abilities are fixed so there’s no reason to try to go beyond them.

I AM DevotionalOther children become praise junkies, needing constant approval rather than valuing their own accomplishments and depending on their own judgments. They decide their worth is tied to their performance and they learn to fear failure—so they become reluctant to try new things or take on a challenge.

It seems the Bible is right when it says, “A flattering mouth works ruin” (Proverbs 26:28 ESV)!

Process praise focuses on the child’s effort and output and doesn’t make a judgment. It gives the child feedback with specific information—“You used a lot of colors in your drawing,” “I can see you are thinking hard about how to build your sandcastle,” or “You helped your sister up when she fell. That was kind.”

Process praise encourages children to take on challenges, confront weaknesses and grow. It also communicates family values.

No wonder the Bible says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 ESV).

I’ve never counted the number of times I say, “Good job, buddy” when I’m with one of my grandsons, but I know it’s way too many. Changing this habit is going to take some work!

Diane Stortz writes Bible storybooks and devotionals to make God’s wonders known to the next generation. Her newest book, I AM Devotional: 100 Devotions About the Names of God, released this month. Learn more at and follow Diane on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


  • 06/29/2017
    Karisa said:

    I have a very confident, precocious 10 year old who is stretching his failure muscles. Playing the violin has become less about his gift for music and more about delighting in the process of practice.

    Thank you for adding focus to my attempts at transitioning his thought pattern from “I am good”, to allowing God to be the author and perfecter of his faith. (Hebrews 12:2)


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