My Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson

Jul 4

Flattery vs. Praise

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It’s a good thing to praise children for the noble things they do, but should there be a limit to the compliments we offer them? I’m Dr. James Dobson with My Family Talk.

Praise is essential to a child’s self-esteem, and the children who grow up without it typically wither like plants without water. But too many good words for the wrong reasons can be inflationary in nature. This is called “flattery” and the essence of it is that it’s unearned. It’s what Grandma says when she comes for a visit, and she says, “Oh, look! My beautiful little girl! You’re getting prettier every day.” Or, “My, what a smart boy you are.” You see, flattery happens when you heap compliments on a child for something that he does not achieve. Praise, on the other hand, is a genuine response to the good things that your child has done. And to be effective, it ought to be very specific. “You’ve been a good boy,” is too general. Much better is, “I like the way you cleaned your room today,” or, “I’m proud of the way you studied for that math assignment last night.” You see, praise reinforces the child’s constructive behavior. It tells him or her that he’s doing something positive and valuable, and it makes him want to repeat it.

Parents should avoid sliding into empty flattery, but they should always be ready to offer genuine praise to those who deserve commendation, and that includes every child, if you’re alert to the opportunities around us.

As parents, we need to be on the lookout for opportunities to offer genuine, well-deserved praise to our children, while avoiding the emptiness of flattery. With My Family Talk, I’m Dr. James Dobson.

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