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How can I motivate my child?

January 11, 2011

What the Experts Say…
“The single most important rule [about praise] is that it deal only with children’s efforts and accomplishments, not with their character and personality.” (Haim G. Ginott, child psychologist in his book Between Parent and Child)

In Other Words…
When children do something that is commendable, we naturally want to encourage them. There are good ways and poor ways of doing that. Unhelpful praise includes statements like: “You’re such a good child!” and “You’re so talented!” This makes children uncomfortable – just as when someone over-praises us. We know our limits and feel anxious when someone expects us to be outstanding at anything. Helpful praise – sometimes called encouragement – focuses on the child’s efforts and the effects of those efforts. Helpful statements might include: “Thank you for your help.” “You worked really hard at that!” “How did you come up with such a fresh idea?” When praise focuses on the effort put forth by children, then they are much more likely to try increasingly difficult tasks.

How This Applies to You…
Look for ways to praise your child’s efforts. Minimize your comments about his or her ability. When children know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated, they will be more confident and more eager to try difficult tasks.

To Find Out More…
For an excellent (and free) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at and if you have children less than 5 years of age, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more on parenting, we recommend Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott.

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