Parents Praising Badly

Recognize the accomplishment, not the “specialness” of the kid.

You'd think it would go without saying that praising children would encourage them to excel. But parents tend to hand out fewer pats on the back than they think, Alan Kazdin, a Yale University child psychologist, told U.S. News & World Report. And when they do praise their kids, he says, their words are either too nonspecific ("You played well") or too centered on the kid rather than the accomplishment ("You're so brainy") to have much effect on motivation. "It's so common now for parents to tell children that they're special," Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, told the newsweekly. That approach, she says, fosters narcissism. Of course, Mom and Dad can never go wrong with "I love you."