Focus on behaviour or effort when motivating children to build good character and self-esteem
By Lea Wee, The Sunday Times, 29 Sep 2013
Ms Noorazlina Noraswad recalls that she was hardly praised as a child.
"My parents didn't want me to think too highly of myself," says the 40-year- old staff nurse and a mother of three.
When she became a parent, she was determined to be more encouraging.
She has read about how praising children can make them more confident and motivate them to behave better - and believes it.
Every opportunity she finds to praise her three daughters, aged three to eight, she does it: doing well in school, sharing things with one another and even looking pretty in a nice dress.
She says: "I don't think it gives them an inflated sense of self."
Her mother, housewife Mariyahma Zainal, 60, says she was stingy with praises for her five children because that was how her own parents brought her up.
She says: "Their thinking was, if you praise too much, the children will think they are very clever and won't want to listen to their parents."
Compared to previous generations, many Singaporeans today tend to be more generous when it comes to praising their children.
But they have to be careful not to overdo it.
While the merits of praise in improving children's confidence and motivation have long been recognised, in recent years, the dangers of overpraising has come under scrutiny in the West.
Studies show that frequent and often empty praise could undermine a child's self-esteem.
Overpraising children - especially those with lower self-esteem - for their personal qualities ("You're such a great person") rather than their efforts ("You must have worked hard for this") may cause them to feel more ashamed if they fail and further lower their self-esteem.
But this is not a problem Singaporean parents need to worry about at the moment.
Mr Brian Poh, a psychologist from the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Mental Health, says: "Anecdotal evidence in our clinic tells us that Singaporean parents are not too lavish with their praise."
In fact, parents interviewed feel that they should be prudent with their praises, otherwise they would not be effective.