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Praising Your Children with Parental Intelligence

Long experienced psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Laurie Hollman, PhD, teaches how to praise kids with Parental Intelligence. According to Hollman, “This means first, step back and think about what the praise will mean to your child. Really think before you speak. Offhanded general comments don’t fly too far but are tossed off as, ‘Well, she’s my mother, so she said that ‘cause she loves me.'” 


Praise has to be specific to your child and detailed to the task, event, or human relations skill. “You’re a great soccer player” doesn’t mean nearly as much as, “It was so exciting when you kicked that fast ball past that star goalie, Rod Starr, and he saw it whiz by, and all the parents cheered.” Or, it doesn’t mean as much to say, “You are such a sweet kid,” compared to saying, “When you told Tania her new curly hairstyle looked beautiful, it was really important because we know how sensitive and loyal you are to your shy friend.”

Click to tweet:Praise has to be specific to your child and detailed to the task, event, or human relations skill.


Praising every day loses its power, so wait for the right moment. It doesn’t have to be a big coup or special event, just something important to your child’s values and motivations. Speaking to your child’s character builds self-esteem, even when mistakes are made and there’s a lapse in the child’s judgment:


“When you apologized to the teacher for lying about doing your assignment, I was really proud of you. That took a lot of guts and I’m sure she knew it. That’s why she gave you that extra day, and then you worked hard and aced it. Very special, kiddo!”


Praise is defined as expressing approval or admiration, but it’s best done in a nonjudgmental way. If not, you may overreach what you expect of your child in the future, producing fear of failure and future parental disapproval instead of pride. To do this right, think of what makes your child proud of them self, not only what makes you proud of him/her: 


“I know that you’re proud you got that high grade on the math test. You don’t think of math as your best subject,  but you got the only A in the class. I think we both know that happened because of all the hard work you put in. That’s one of your best qualities—persistence when things are tough. That’s hard to keep up all the time though, so give yourself a break now and then.” 


Praising persistence rather than the A itself is more valuable praise, because it allows for the child not to get an A the next time without feeling guilty. It also highlights that the child’s persistence is key, which can be applied in so many areas of their life. This example is detailed, specific, value-laden, and important to the child, not just to the parent. It gets high marks!


Laurie Hollman, PhD, is a psychoanalyst who specializes in infant-parent, child, adolescent and adult psychotherapy. Her new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, is available now.

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In Unlocking Parental Intelligence, long-experienced psychoanalyst, Laurie Hollman, PhD, encourages parents to find the significance behind their child’s behaviors by becoming “meaning-ma…

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I am a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy. I write extensively for parents about child development, mental health, Parental Intelligence, and a broad range of parenting topics… Read More


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