How To Praise Your Child And Their Effort (Even When They Get An A)

how to praise your child

Table Talk Conversation: What advice would you give a parent on “How to Praise Your Child” whether they win or fail? Your Family’s Table Talk “Talking Points” are in the Conclusion below.

It’s that time of year again, report cards are out and proud parents are going crazy all over Social Media.

It’s great to be happy that your child’s hard work paid off. We all love sharing our children’s wins.

But what happens if your child worked hard, tried their best and didn’t get the end result they had hoped for?

Where are the Facebook posts that Little “Joey” got straight “C’s” and we couldn’t be more proud of “him and how hard he worked”?

Results don’t necessarily equal hard work, either.

As a father of three, I see this first hand. Each of my three are completely different (it actually amazes me sometimes they all came from the same parents).

One never has to open a book and will always do well just hearing it mentioned once.

The others will bust their little “Tuchus’s” constantly and just squeak by.

I’m proud of all of them, but when I see an effort, that makes me even more proud


But remember, as a parent it’s not about “us,” it’s about preparing our little ones for the future.

What happens if your child who worked hard doesn’t get good grades and doesn’t see a post about them if they’re on Social Media?

Worse, what happens when your child does get good grades but feels the weight of the world on them because they feel that’s the way they win your love?

Watch this video please, it’s short but I feel it’ll explain more clearly for you my concern.

Why You Should Praise Your Child

First, let me make this very clear.

Not every child should get a trophy. This doesn’t prepare them for the real world.

I love this quote in this article from Team USA:

“I tell parents of our youth club that if they want a trophy case full of awards, then go to the trophy store and buy them,” White says. As for losing, he tells kids (and parents): accept that it happens. “Don’t sugar coat the outcome of a loss,” he says. “That guy was better than you today. That does not make it out to be the end result. There is no shame in failure, if you learn from it, and use it to push yourself further.”

You’ll also see Team USA’s ideas on how to reward effort based on age, while also preparing our little ones for the future and the real world.

The important thing is that your child knows you love them (which they do), even when they “fail” or disappoint or don’t win at what they attempted. The attempt is where the lessons come from and where we grow in life.

Praise the attempts, the tries, the effort, because this will encourage them to grow and push themselves to do what they’re uncomfortable with.

You see, if they feel they get your praise on the wins in life, then why will they attempt something they might not win at? They want your praise.

Growth in life comes from trying and pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones, right?

Plus, if you really want to help your child grow, then push them to fail, so you can see how they respond and coach them. Will they retreat and not try again or will they be resilient and get back up?

How to Praise Your Child when they Fail

You’ve probably never heard someone encourage you to “Praise your child’s failures,” the underlying message your child will take away is that what matters is the effort, not the outcome.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, spent years studying the predictors of success. She discovered that a growth mindset was the biggest factor that determined achievement. Kids with a fixed mindset believed that intelligence was static (in other words, you’re smart or you aren’t). Kids with a growth mindset believe that you can enhance ability or intelligence through hard work.

She also found that kids who grew accustomed to receiving praise for minor things became upset in the absence of praise. In other words, their motivation was primarily extrinsic and they lost a lot of their intrinsic motivation.

Now, I realize it can be tough, wondering if you’re under-praising or over-praising. Remember that there’s no such thing as the perfect parent and just do the best you can. One thing you can keep in mind is that quality is more important than quantity.

Here are some general rules:

Praise Effort and Hard Work

“John, I know your team lost but I’m so proud of how hard you have been training and how you guys gave it your all until the game was over.”

“You really put in a lot of time studying for your math test! I know it didn’t go the way you hoped, but I’m so proud of you for working so hard!”

Praise the Use of Strategies

“I saw you did an outline for your writing assignment. I know that it probably came together a lot more easily because of that and I’m really proud of you for taking the time to do that.”

“I noticed that you’ve been getting up early to stretch before school. I’m really proud of you for the extra effort and I’m sure it’s going to make a difference in gymnastics.”

Praise Them for Trying New Things

“I know you get nervous in front of crowds, but I’m so proud of you for trying out for the school play!”

How to Praise Your Child when they Win

We are all happy when our children successfully accomplish something… but we also want to avoid the situation where they’re doing it for our praise. Believe it or not, kids can actually come to measure their self-worth in terms of what makes US smile.

If they’re performing for our praise, alone, they may start to abandon tasks or refuse to take risks if they’re afraid they might fail.

So how can you praise your kids when they do succeed?

Make It About Them

Rather than saying, “I’m so proud of you,” try, “You worked SO HARD to get that A, you must feel so proud of yourself!” And then when they say yes, you can always add, “I’m proud of you too!”

Don’t Go Overboard with Praise

If you praise everything your kids do successfully, they could become dependent on hearing constant praise. Plus, it could, again, make them fear failure.

Praise the Effort

We talked about this in the section on praising failure, but it also applies when praising successes.

Instead of saying, “Wow, congrats on that A!” try saying, “You worked so hard studying for this test and the effort really paid off!”

25 Ways to Praise Your Child Daily

Hopefully you’re not in a complete panic by this point, worrying that you’re over-praising or under-praising your child. Remember, parenting is hard work and there are always lessons to be learned. Just as your kids are learning from their failures, you can learn from your own as well, striving to do better every day.

Take a look at this list of 25 Ways to Praise your Child Daily.

ways to praise your child


Conclusion: How To Praise Your Child Without Damaging Them

The big takeaway is we love our kids dearly, love seeing them win and love sharing their successes with the world.

What we need to do, though, is make sure with 100% certainty that our children know it’s the effort we appreciate.

If you see that your child’s a perfectionist, instead of always shooting for the wins (which is great), try to stick them in situations outside their comfort zone where they might fail. See how they react and coach them from there.

We’ve shared previously how billionaire Spanx founder, Sara Blakely, credits much of her success to her father. Blakely’s father would ask at the Dinner Table nightly, “What have you failed at today?”

She shared:

“My dad growing up encouraged me and my brother to fail,” she explains. “The gift he was giving me is that failure is (when you are) not trying versus the outcome. It’s really allowed me to be much freer in trying things and spreading my wings in life.”

Failure should never be feared and hard work should always be recognized as a win in of itself.

Table Talk question for you to try with your child during your next meal or conversation. “If you were a parent of 2 children, what would you do in this following scenario. One of your children works hard but can only get C’s in School at best. The other child never needs to study, is a bit lazy, but gets straight A’s?” See what type of feedback you get and let us know in the comments below. It’ll make for an interesting conversation and covers a lot of our My Success MBA skills kids should learn.

If you found the discussion and talking points interesting, then we would like to invite you to take a look at our Table Talk. Conversations have been proven to help kids perform better academically, reduce the likelihood they will engage in risky behavior, and strengthen the relationship between teens and parents. Click here to learn more (it’s free).

About The Author

Michael Kawula

I’m a husband and father of 3 amazing children. For the last 20-Years I’ve been a serial entrepreneur. My goal is to help parents empower all our children to achieve their inner greatness.I’m an author, Inc. 500 featured Company, have been interviewed by Anthony Robbins, CNN and featured in over 100 publications over the last few years.