How to Praise Your Kids Without Focusing on Achievements

praise your kids

My three kids are truly the apples of my eye. They are my greatest work, the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’m so, so very proud of them. Of course, like most parents, you look for ways to praise your kids whenever you can. My husband and I have always striven to teach them that we cherish good character over good grades or sports trophies, but in a world where kids are pushed to achieve, achieve, achieve, the struggle can be very real.

Exhibit A: my oldest child is 12 and just entered 7th grade. He doesn’t like sports, and that’s fine with me. He isn’t interested, like his best friend is, in going out for the fall play. This year I really encouraged him to FIND something he wanted to participate in, and I was thrilled when he chose Student Council. It’s very service-oriented at his school, and my son volunteers with me a local charity that benefits kids in poverty and he was excited about getting his classmates involved.

So, he ran for student council.

But he didn’t win.

WOMP. He was very disappointed, and I felt guilty, like I had set him up for failure. But the truth is, I was also VERY proud of him, and I told him so. My introverted, never-been-involved son put himself out there, in JUNIOR HIGH for goodness sake. He tried something new and scary, with no guarantee it would work out. Knowing that he stood in front of his class and told them why he wanted to serve them, and serve others, well…I’ve never been prouder. And I know he learned from it.

Similarly, my youngest child, who is 5, just started kindergarten. He has some sensory issues and really dislikes the noise and overall “bigness” of going to chapel at his Christian school. The whole of grades kindergarten-4 attend, and it’s a lot of people. There’s singing and clapping and drums and microphones, and he doesn’t love it. But the first two weeks, he’s made it through without a meltdown. And I’ve NEVER been so proud of this kid who is experiencing so many new things all at once and dealing with them like he’s been taught.

It was with this in mind that I came across this great article by Tina Plantamura on how to praise your kids without focusing on their achievements. Plantamura lists 21 wonderful things to praise your kids for, and I’m going to choose my favorite “top ten” of what she wrote. These all rang SO true with me.

Top 10 Ways to Praise Your Kids:

1. When they stand up for a friend or a sibling.

2. When a child is loving or kind to older relatives.

3. The first time they are buried in a book.

4. The first time a child shows compassion and puts others first.

5. Their first heartfelt attempt at asking for forgiveness.

6. The first time a child tries something new when the odds are against them.

7. Not just trying, but trying again and again.

8. The first time they accept rejection with grace and dignity.

9. The first time your child genuinely roots for a weaker teammate.

10. The first time they help someone who is hurt.

Do you love these or what? Reminds me of what is truly important in life. As much as their dad and I tell them we want them to treasure character of achievement, we need to recognize and praise these character achievements every chance we get! What are your favorite ways to praise your kids? You can read the rest of Tina Plantamura’s lovely list over at Upworthy.

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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.