The Problem of Overpraising

The Problem of Over-Praising

by Linda Michie, Executive Director and Founder of Wishing Well Adoption & Family Services

We all know what it feels like to go without praise. It’s a basic human need to be acknowledged by our people, to hear that we are ok, to every-so-often hear admiration from another.

Praise your children for the good they do. Acknowledge them just for who they are. Shine in the light of your love for them….

But don’t over-do it.

I recently worked with a mother who repeatedly told her son he was the best boy in the world. What’s wrong with that, she wanted to know. I thought, yikes, what if he grew up believing it? That he was the best boy in the world? Better than all the other boys in the world! How would that effect his playground behavior? His ego? His heart? Would he grow up to be a kind and humble man?

Not so recently I worked with a mother who praised her son after every step he took up a whole flight of stairs. The whole flight! Every step! I spent the entire flight of stairs wondering when the child stopped listening to her, tuned her out completely, so he could get on with the business of climbing the stairs.

You’ve seen children cringe at their parents’ overzealous support of them. I’ve known children that literally couldn’t bear the weight of their parents’ pursuit of their greatness.

Use your praise wisely.

Children can get an overinflated sense of self-worth in society, separating them from other (common) children, if they believe they are superior. They can develop grudges toward others who don’t give them the praise they have come to expect. They can come to devalue the efforts of others thinking they, themselves, are so much better, or best.

Once is enough for any well-done job.

Try using different phrases of support so your children aren’t always hearing the same old thing (which can lose its meaning). “Good job buddy” is great once, but after 1000 times we just sound like the adults on Peanut cartoons “waaamp waamp wamp wamp waaamp.”

Try using phrases like:

“You did that job really well.”

“I’m so proud of your grades.”

“Look at you go on that bike.”

“I love to see you sharing your toys.”

Praise should mean something and be used in moderation.


Call Wishing Well at (757) 739-2118 if you would like to schedule an appointment with a parenting coach.

Linda Michie

Linda Michie

Executive Director and Founder at Wishing Well Adoption & Family Services
Linda Michie holds a Master's degree in Urban Studies, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University.
Linda has worked in the child welfare field since 1999 and is a Licensed Child Placing Agent.
Wishing Well assists in domestic adoptions in the state of Virginia, and provides parenting coaching, and supervised visitation in Virginia Beach, VA.
Linda Michie

Latest posts by Linda Michie (see all)