Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.


Praising your child is always a good thing, right? Well, it turns out that for learning and attention-challenged kids effort-based praise is often more meaningful and effective than personal praise.

Personal praise focuses on natural talents —saying things like, “You’re such a good reader”, or “You’re a gifted piano player”. This type of praise can make kids wary of trying new things for fear that they won’t be naturally good at them right from the start. Praising your son for a talent he was born with is qualitatively different than praising effort and acknowledging specific accomplishments. Effort-based praise focuses on what your child can control. So, saying something like, “I’m impressed with the time you put into studying for your math test” makes more of an impact than saying, “You’re so good at math!”.

Effort-based praise also reminds kids that mastering a skill is a multi-step process, and doesn’t necessarily come easy, like natural talents do. For kids with learning and attention issues calling out the small successes along the way is also more motivating and meaningful than just praising the end result.

The key elements to effort-based praise are:

  • Specificity
    “Thank you for making your bed and putting away your clothes,” rather than “Thank you for cleaning up”

  • Sincerity
    “I really appreciate your help setting the table”, rather than “You are the biggest help in the world. Thank you.”

  • Realistic Expectations
    “With a lot of practice you’ll be able to make yourself breakfast” rather than “You’re on your way to owning your own restaurant!”

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