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New Ways to Praise: Moving Beyond “I’m Proud of You”

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It’s built into the way most of us parent. We praise our kids for everything they do – broad praise that actually means little but has a major impact. Contrary to what many parents think, the impact is not positive.


Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman share the negative impacts of overpraising kids in their book “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.” They emphasize the importance of praising a child’s sincere effort and improvement on a task as opposed to labeling them as smart and throwing praise at everything they do. Kids who are overpraised and labeled as naturally smart are actually less likely to take on challenging tasks. They veer away from anything that takes effort.

More recent research has gone even further in proving that overpraising is a big mistake. Besides encouraging our kids to give up when things get hard, it also gives them inflated egos and may cause them to become narcissists later in life.

Though research points out that there may also be a genetic link to narcissism, children who are already predisposed and grow up with parents who constantly overestimate their worth and abilities stand a higher chance of turning into narcissists.

Do we say nothing?

The hardest part about this information is that parents, especially in the Western world, are primed to praise. We want to tell our kids how well they are doing, and we want them to feel valued.

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These aren’t bad desires, but raising kids who constantly reach for external praise, especially if we offer it when they don’t do anything extraordinary, is a bad idea. We want kids to be intrinsically motivated, working to achieve their best because they want to.

There is praise we can offer in the right circumstances that can point kids inward. It can also focus them on hard work and effort as opposed to innate smarts. Instead of falling back on the old “I’m so proud of you” try one of these alternatives.

You should be proud of you

When we tell our kids we’re proud of them, we train them to seek out our approval. We should teach them to seek out self-approval, being proud of an accomplishment when they know they put in all the effort they could.

This doesn’t mean only being proud of themselves when they come in first place. Teaching our kids to be proud of themselves means teaching them that life is about the journey. Maybe they made a B on a test, but they know how hard they studied and what a challenge the class was, so they are proud of that B more than they would be an A in an easy class. It’s a lesson in appreciating their own effort.

That took a lot of work

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging how hard our kids work. The key is to make sure the work is worthy of notice and to praise the effort, not the outcome. Praising the effort means our kids will learn to appreciate the work part of succeeding instead of assuming it should come easily.

I see the progress you’ve made

My oldest daughter sauntered into a gymnastics class and displayed the cartwheels and round offs she taught herself in our backyard. She walked out an hour later in tears.

Her form needed work, and this gym offered her challenges she’d never dreamed of facing. After she fell, her coach wisely gave her the advice that gymnastics is like life: What matters is if you get back up.

She did, and every week she’s improved. I’ve told her that, never falling for the trap of telling her she’s doing everything perfectly. That would be insincere and untrue, and she knows it. Praising her progress gives me a way to offer affirmation for her hard work and encourage her to appreciate the effort she’s put into gymnastics.

You grew a lot from that challenge

Acknowledging failure is necessary. No one is going to win all the time, and participation trophies given to everyone often rob our children of the chances to experience, and learn from, failure.

We can talk to our kids about experiences that don’t go well while still praising their ability to grow through the situation. Maybe a child doesn’t make the team or win first place. Instead of railing against the people who didn’t choose them or making excuses for why they lost, we can point out ways they grew. Did they try something difficult, develop a new skill, or find a new passion they can continue to follow? All of these are worthy of our attention.

Changing our method doesn’t mean withholding affirmation

We don’t have to be stoic, unresponsive parents to raise kids who are intrinsically motivated, nor do we have to underplay the accomplishments that are worthy of notice. What we need to do is become aware of how often we train our kids to seek external motivation and how much we heap empty praise on our kids for doing the bare minimum.

Withholding praise feels foreign at first, but it’s a change that offers long-term benefits to our kids. Reducing the risk of raising a narcissist and teaching kids that hard work is an important part of life are benefits that make watching our words worth the trouble.

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Her songs were the soundtrack to many of our youths, and the visuals from her wedding day are the perfect complement the season of life Michelle Branch and many of her fans are now in.

Branch, 35, recently married Patrick Carney of the Black Keys in a beautiful ceremony celebrating their blended family—and she was a beautiful, breastfeeding bride.

Branch is now a mom of two, sharing her older daughter, 13-year-old Owen, with her former bass player Teddy Landau and her 7-month-old son, Rhys, with her now husband, Carney.

Little Rhys was part of the action on his mom and dad's big day last weekend, and like any 7-month-old, he got hungry and needed to nurse, wedding or no wedding.

"A baby has to eat when a baby has to eat," Branch captioned a photo of Rhys nursing while his mom relaxed in her wedding dress.

Branch's beautiful portrait proves that parents can't—and shouldn't—be forced to leave their party or head to a private room for a breastfeeding break every time baby needs to nurse.

Weddings are a celebration of love, and there's nothing more loving than a mama nourishing her child.

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It's been less than a year since Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife, volleyball player Morgan Beck Miller, tragically lost their 19-month-old daughter Emeline Grier after she drowned in a swimming pool. Morgan had just announced a pregnancy a few weeks before losing Emeline, and gave birth to her little brother, Easton Vaughn Rek Miller, back in October.

Now, little Easton is taking Infant Swimming Resource lessons, something his proud mama explained in her Instagram stories this week.

"I cried tears of hope watching my baby boy learning this lifesaving skill," Morgan wrote in a series of Stories explaining that Easton is taking swimming lessons every weekday for 10 minutes.

Since losing Emeline, Morgan has been trying so hard to raise awareness of the fact that drowning is among the leading causes of death in kids under four.

In an interview with the TODAY show last summer the grieving mama asked other families to remember that pool safety isn't just an issue if you have a pool, but if you're visiting anyone who has one. Morgan and her children were visiting friends the day Emeline drowned.

"A child under 30 pounds can drown in 30 seconds. And I just keep counting to 30 in my head. That was all I needed," Morgan said.

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This week she wrote about her gratitude for Infant Swimming Resource lessons, which are designed to give very young children water survival skills. After mentioning how the sight of Easton learning to swim brought her to tears of joy, Morgan wrote: "and then tears of sadness because it was all I had to do to keep my baby girl here."

We hope she's not blaming herself because Emeline's death is so not Morgan's fault—and she's so not alone. That's important to know, and it's also important to know that the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't even recommend swimming lessons until children are a year old.

While ISR lessons like Easton is taking are popular with parents, the AAP states that "there is no evidence to suggest that infant swimming programs for those younger than 1 year are beneficial" when it comes to reducing drowning risks.

Still, parent-and-baby water like Bode and Easton are taking part in can be a fun way to get everyone used to being in pool together and prepare parents and babies for later swimming lessons, which the AAP says can reduce drowning risks.

The AAP wants parents to be aware that swimming lessons at any age can't "drown proof" a child and stresses the importance of constant adult supervision around water (we should always be within arms reach), pool barriers and CPR training for parents.

Tips to reduce the risk of childhood drowning from the AAP:

  1. If you have a pool, install a "4 foot, 4-sided, isolation fence that separates the pool from the house and the rest of the yard with a self-closing, self- latching gate". Also keep "a telephone and rescue equipment approved by the US Coast Guard (eg, life buoys, life jackets, and a reach tool, such as a shepherd's crook)" by the pool.
  2. When visiting a home or business with a pool or hot tub, parents "should carefully assess the premises to ensure basic barriers are in place, such as sliding door locks and pool fences with closed gates in good working order and ensure that supervision will be consistent."
  3. Learn CPR.
  4. During a pool party, parents and adults should take turns tapping in as the "designated watcher" and fully focus on the kids playing in or around a pool.
  5. If swimming at a beach or lake, choose a location with lifeguards and designated areas for swimming.
  6. Teach kids to stay away from bodies of water in all seasons, even winter when they are covered in ice.

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Thanks to the phones at our fingertips and the cars on our roads, today human beings can do so much in a day without actually moving very much at all, and we know this is having a negative impact on our health.

The World Health Organization is worried about the sedentary habits of today's children, and this week it released new guidelines suggesting kids under 2 should not have any screen time at all. According to the WHO, infants and 1-year-olds should not have any screen time at all, and 2-year-olds should only have an hour or less per day.

This is in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines, which recommend no screen time other than video chatting for children under 18 months, but parents should view these guidelines as part of a bigger picture of childhood health, and not worry too much if their baby has seen a few episodes of Peppa Pig.

While the WHO report spawned a flurry of headlines focused on the elimination of all screen time for infants, the screen time suggestions are just one bit of 17-page report called "Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age".

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This is not so much about taking away screens as it is about adding activity.

"What we really need to do is bring back play for children," says Dr. Juana Willumsen, an expert in childhood obesity and physical activity with the WHO. "This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep."

So before parents start feeling bad because they've breastfed their baby in front of the TV, or put on some Paw Patrol so that they could load the dishwasher, it's super important to have the full context. Yes, we should limit screen time, but we should also limit all kinds of sedentary time infants and toddlers are spending strapped into strollers, chairs and swings. Lifestyle patterns are established early in life, so we really do want to encourage our kids to move their bodies as much as possible (which will help them get better quality sleep at night).

This is about movement, not about demonizing screen time, and some doctors disagree with the WHO's guidelines, suggesting there should be more room for parental flexibility.

Earlier this year the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK recently released its first guidance on screen time, which did not take such a black-and-white approach to the issue.

The RCPCH didn't ban screen time for infants or young kids, but rather suggested that parents use their own judgment and take care to support an active lifestyle that values movement, socialization and quality sleep. The organization found it was "impossible to recommend age-appropriate time limits" because "there is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age."

Basically, the top pediatricians in the UK recognize the need for nuance in the conversation about childhood screen time. We absolutely should not be plopping babies down in front of the TV for 8 hours a day, but don't beat yourself up if you didn't cut the cable the instant your baby was born, mama.

Parenting is about more than following rules—it's about doing what's best for your family. It's important to know why the WHO is making these recommendations so that we can make the best decisions we can, but it's also important to recognize that parenting isn't a one-size-fits-all deal.

For some parents, ditching TV altogether is the best thing for their family.

But if you felt like you had to put on Baby Shark today so that you could drink your coffee in peace, that's okay, too, mama.

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Every time Amy Schumer posts something to Instagram we're expecting a birth announcement, but in her latest Instagram post, Schumer let the world know she's still pregnant, and unfortunately, still throwing up.

Schumer made her "still pregnant" announcement in a funny Instagram caption, noting, "Amy is still pregnant and puking because money rarely goes to medical studies for women," suggesting that hyperemesis gravidarum, the extreme form of morning sickness that's seen her hospitalized multiple times during her pregnancy doesn't get as much attention as conditions that impact men.

She's made a joke out of it, but she's not wrong. Gender bias in medical research is very real, and something that the medical community has just recently begun to address.

And while more people suffer from erectile dysfunction than hyperemesis gravidarum, let's consider that five times as many studies are done on erectile dysfunction than premenstrual syndrome (PMS) when about 19% of men are impacted by erectile dysfunction but 90% of women experience symptoms related to PMS.

Schumer's point is important not just for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, but for women and vulnerable pregnant people with all sorts of under-studied and under-diagnosed conditions. The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and bias in medicine is part of the problem.

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