“While I live I will praise the Lord;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
– Psalms 146:2
What we are told by society and what the Bible says often do not match. For years, teachers and parents have been told to praise children. The Bible tells us that we should praise God.
A parent should be able to know when and how to praise. Children need to learn that gifts and abilities ultimately come from God, not self. There are some undesired outcomes associated with giving improper praise to children. If praise is lavished on children, they may come to think that they are better than others. Giving praise for inferior or mediocre work sets inadequate standards of performance. There is a difference between love and praise.
We often see individuals on TV shouting down others insisting that the shouters cannot be wrong. There seems to be no timidity or place for doubt. The Bible teaches us to be humble. What we see is certainly not humility! When children are brought up to believe they are special by being constantly praised, they become bold and brash, insisting they cannot be wrong. After all, they have been told all of their lives how special they are. They have been praised for all sorts of behavior when they should have been told that some behavior is unacceptable.
When we praise children for poor work, they come to believe that poor work is good. Why should they do better when they already have the praise? Instead, the parent or teacher should select portions of the effort that they can honestly praise. The praise should most always be directed to the effort, not the child. Actions need to be separated from the child. Bad actions do not mean that the child is bad and good actions may be temporary and not necessarily mean that the child is perfect.
Some may equate praise with love. Not so. A hug is far more effective in showing love. Praise is a tool we can use to guide behavior. Our love for our children should not depend on how well they perform.
Children need to learn that all ability is a gift from God and that He has gifted us according to the plan He has for us. Thank you for their successes should be directed to God, not the child. We praise God for the gift He gave us…the child itself. A big hug to a child with, “I’m so glad God gave you to me”, goes much further than any praise we can give the child.
Some have commented that we have a “me” generation that feels entitled. Could it be that they have been praised too much and allowed to go from grade to grade in school without being held accountable for the work expected for the grade they were in?
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone understood that it is God who deserves praise. He is the one who is special! If everyone knew this, there would be no shouting at others nor people trying to hurt others.