don't-overdo-praiseGrandparents tend to shower their grandkids with praise, even for the tiniest of achievements. Parents do it as well.

They do it for the right reason—to make them feel good about themselves; to help them build self-confidence in order to achieve more; and to better prepare them for adulthood.

Unfortunately, it can have the opposite effect.

Numerous studies show that it is better to praise children for the degree of difficulty in what they try and how they go about accomplishing it, rather than for the outcome itself.

Children who continuously receive high praise for completing something that is routine or easy tend to avoid new challenges. They fear failing and not receiving the praise they have come to expect. As a result they remain in their comfort zone, managing what they do based on projected outcome rather than learning from a new experience. They are risk—averse.

One study by Carol Dweck, Professor at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, concludes that the children who become successful adults are the ones who are praised for taking on new challenges, following good strategies, stretching outside their comfort zones, and being persistent even though the outcome may have failed.

To listen to an interview with Carol Dweck on this subject, conducted by the Harvard Business Review, click here.

 What Can Grandparents Do?

 As grandparents, we need to help our grandchildren realize that their brain is a muscle. And like any muscle, it grows stronger by adding weight and using it often. Learning new things, and trying what’s hard are good ways to give your brain a muscle-building workout. Overcoming setbacks is another example. As grandparents, we should look for opportunities to praise this behavior and to curtail all the “over-the-top” praise we lavish randomly and freely on outcomes.

If your grandchild has a success, ask how they went about accomplishing it. It’s the “how” that we want to celebrate, not the outcome itself.

Share your grandchild’s success … What has he or she done? What challenges were overcome?


Robert Martin is the author of the Keira and Papa Detective Agency series. His latest book is The Case of the Missing Crown Jewels. Robert is an advocate for both grandparents and grandchildren. He believes that grandparents have an important role to play in the lives of their grandchildren—they can be an emotional rock, a wise friend and a playful elder. Connect with him on Facebook and subscribe to his blog on