Don Power

Science vs Love? No contest!

by Don Power on January 19, 2011

in Humanity

"Great Job!"

So, I find it hard to fathom that there’s a school of psychology that says too much praise for your kids is a bad thing.

Haven’t these eggheads ever looked into the eyes of a child when you say excitedly “Great job!!“?

The warmth, love and clarity on those eyes looking back at you make you feel as if you can see the future. And that future is bright – as bright as the eyes of your child beaming back at you.

So, you can have your child raising scientific theories, I’ll take love over them anyday – and gladly, so will my kids!

- dp


Jorge M. Perez@apogee beach florida condos October 10, 2011 at 3:01 am

It really helps to praise kids to build up their self confidence. However, there’s what we call reinforcement theory that balances our way of handling our children. It’s not all the time that we have to praise them. When they commit mistakes, let them feel that you are not pleased to it and that it will have a consequence on their part.

Fergus Gibson August 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I don’t have any children of my own yet, but I do interact with people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. I have a thought I’d like to share.

I believe in compliments. I believe when offered sincerely and as a gift with no selfish motive, they have great power. I go out of my way to offer my gratitude to strangers, and especially those who too rarely hear it. I believe kids should – in fact need to – receive praise, but I also agree it can be harmful.

I was born in the mid-70s, late enough to be raised in the modern paradigm that still prevails. The mantra is that we should praise our children and build their self-esteem no matter what. So why do so many of my generation and those successive suffer such a clear lack?

Because I think, as well-meaning as we are, we’ve lost our way as a society on the basic foundation of self-esteem. It isn’t being told one is special because one is special. This is preaching narcissism and entitlement. What we should be doing is teaching children that self-esteem is earned from achievement. We should encourage them to go forth, apply themselves, and try earnestly to achieve in measure to their development and ability. In this way we encourage a healthy relationship between achievement and self-esteem and not a lazy, entitled, and selfish attitude towards the world.

So I would say we can overpraise children if we praise them in the absence of praiseworthy achievement or praise them effusively for the least achievement. We do praiseworthy things, my view isn’t so much that we should praise less but that we should be careful that we use praise strategically to teach children how to be healthy people. Even the effort can be praiseworthy in failure, especially because children should be encouraged to actively seek achievement through engagement with their world, and what we choose to praise is very powerful in shaping their behaviours and attitudes.

But telling children we are all unique and wonderful snowflakes or that we can achieve anything we set our minds to is dishonest and setting them up for dysfunction. How are they supposed to feel when they don’t achieve something? We each are different. Some of us are lousy, and some of us truly grand. We each have different strengths, so naturally we’ll struggle to achieve in some areas (though the struggle and the adaptation can be praiseworthy) and naturally achieve in others.

Don Power August 12, 2011 at 11:03 am

Hi Fergus;

I appreciate and agree with everything you’ve said. In raising my own kids I also try and teach them that there are valuable lessons to be learned from failure as well. I encourage them with strength of character, not meaningless words, meaningless praise nor overprotective shelter from reality.

My sister in law told me one time, when I lamented that I’m not out there in the streets, changing the world: “But you are changing the world, you’re raining thoughtful, intelligent kids”. It was one of the most meaningful, profound and impactful compliments I’ve ever received.

Thanks for your great comment! Hope to stimulate some more dialogue from you in future articles!


- Don

Fergus Gibson August 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Thanks for writing a great starting point.

Children are very close to my heart and thoughts. My own childhood was very unconventional and I grew up very quickly. Interacting with kids gives me a valuable chance to reconnect with that childhood part of myself that never got much expression. I think adults commonly appreciate the opportunity to visit their innocent world.

Thanks for understanding where I’m coming from. My attitude may seem old-fashioned to some — which amuses me because I’m actually pretty non-conformist — but it’s intended to be in the best interest of children and developing their self-esteem.

Don, I make this comment as a not-yet parent (and I’m sensitive to the fact that non-parents are often perceived as know-it-alls in parenting), but it seems to me like you have it right. I don’t think any of us go in knowing exactly what’s right and wrong or how much work it’s going to be, but your love seems unwavering and your intention to do right by them strong; and I think those are the only qualifications for parenthood. But feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt. I try not to be judgmental towards any parent (though some extremes are hard to take) because I have not yet walked in those shoes.

Thanks for sharing something personal. I sense in you a strong desire to keep your family and professional lives separate, which I think is understandable. I appreciate your decision to share, and I think there are some important (and positive) insights into Mr. Don Power in your article. :)

Don Power August 23, 2011 at 7:54 am

Haha! Yes – I do tend to keep my professional and personal lives separate Fergus. Thanks for all your kind words and for taking the time to write such a warm reply.

- Don

Jamal@broccoli soup July 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Science and love are two separate entities. Science always demands logic and love is without reason and love.

Don Power August 12, 2011 at 11:03 am

“Love is without reason” – I like that Jamal. Thanks for your comment!

- Don

Fergus Gibson August 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm

While I essentially agree that there is a separation between the rational and the emotional, I also believe that the rational can consume emotion as information. I’m actually planning a blog post when we relaunch our site (very soon) so that it has a blog (!) on the virtue of emotion in business decision-making.

We often believe these are two things that can never meet, like science and religion. But it’s no more true of rationality and emotion than it is of science and religion. Nothing is more apropos of this than scientific study and conclusions about emotion.

I’m looking forward into going into more depth on this soon. In the context of this blog post, I would say that love of our children should both inform and encourage rational consideration of their best interests, our actions, and our priorities. Such consideration should not — CANNOT — ignore emotion, but rather emotion needs to understand. What triggers our feelings? What are they telling us? How should we rationally receive these emotions and then direct them towards actions that achieve the best outcomes, first for our children, second for the others we care for, third for ourselves, and finally for the world beyond.

Thanks for provoking me, Jamal.

Don Power August 23, 2011 at 7:56 am

Fergus – I could have sworn I saw you in my Philosophy class back in ’91, no? ;)

Nice analysis!

- Don

reshma adnan July 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Those are real idiots who thinks like this way in my opinion.there is no harm of praising kids.It makes them happy and confident.moreover they tried to do better when you will say”hey good job but i am sure you can do a lot better then that”.with a big smile.

Fergus Gibson August 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm

As an aside, Reshma, I actually had a bit of a problem with praise as a child. As soon as I got praise, my efforts would start to flag because the goal was achieved and then I would tend to slip to a praiseworthy level.

My childhood was dysfunctional, so I don’t claim this is indicative of children in general or even of me as an adult. I think it’s relevant to the discussion though because we must consider that different children do have different needs, especially those who have not been raised with love, support, and stability. For them, praise may not be the key, but something deeper that is left unresolved. I think that was my problem.

The praise itself was the goal for me rather than encouragement, and that seems like the wrong goal. Perhaps if my parental figures had taken more of an interest in me and encouraging me while in-progress towards something that needed to be maintained rather than once in a while on attainment, it would have been so hard for me to maintain. I’m not much trouble by these thoughts, though, because I am in a very different, healthier, happier place now.

Don Power August 23, 2011 at 7:58 am

“The praise itself was the goal for me rather than encouragement”…

Very astute assessment, Fergus. And a very important distinction. Praise for praise’s sake is not worth much, as you say. But praise for genuine encouragement of a child, that’s a different story.


- Don

fight club Miami June 24, 2011 at 2:02 am

Wow you are a great wirter i liked how you said in the beginning that you didn’t like science and showed how you learned to love it i think that your title could be a little better i don’t care for it too much…

Melanie June 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Hi Don, I’m agree with you. Kids need to be rewarded by their efforts. They need stimulus doses to be better everyday.

Valerie May 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Dear Don,
I always make sure my son know he does a good job. They try hard and hearing their mom, dad, teacher, or others that they love tell them the did a good job or the ones we do is “I love you to the end of Space”
“You are super smart”
Hes 5 and a great boy!!

Don Power August 12, 2011 at 11:04 am

Fantastic Valerie! Thanks for your comment!

- Don

van025 May 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Praising our kids is a good way to encourage them more better but Don’t use it so much

Smith@steam showers May 12, 2011 at 3:39 am

It is wise saying that excess of everything is bad thing.If we deal our kids in moderate way and prove ourselves a model character, we can train our kid positively in this way.

Sonny@Kids' Craft Blogs April 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Don, I think showing enthusiastic approval for kids, as a form of positive reinforcement, is a good thing. On the other hand, as much as you want to show love for your child, you never want to tolerate bad behavior under any circumstance.

Selina @ Total Curve April 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

What a bunch of eggheads!!! (:

I have two beautiful little girls and they get all the appropriate praise possible. As a concerned parent about raising them right I do know that to flatter them or make statements like, “You are the most beautiful girl in the whole world”, which are probably untrue, although not to me, are best to not be said.

All the honest praise possible is the rule in our home. The children will have a lot more self confidence and will be able to accomplish a lot more in life with a lot less baggage.

Great post, you touched a valuable part of my life,

Don Power August 12, 2011 at 11:05 am

Thanks Selina. You hit it on the head – “honest praise” should rule the home.


- Don

Fergus Gibson August 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Yes, I’d add that I think it’s an important part of fostering sincerity in child. I don’t tend to toot my own horn very much, but one thing that seems to be pretty indisputable is that I’m a sincere person and people pick up on it very quickly. Sincerity has opened a lot of doors for me in this life that I think would have remained closed, and it has garnered respect for me that I wouldn’t have had. There often seems less suspicion of my motives or intentions than is the case in general.

Sincerity is also a central point in How to Win Friends and Influence People which I regard as a seminal work in explaining the rules and techniques of effective relationships. I don’t always succeed in following them, but when I do, I do better. Sincerity is a point that the author returns to again and again, cautioning his readers that in many cases the techniques will be empty if not accompanied with a sincere attitude of care and interest in the other party.

How to be sincere is something the book doesn’t cover. I’m not sure if it’s something that can be taught; it’s not a technique. It’s a personal quality. If it doesn’t emerge out of one’s childhood, it’s unlikely to emerge in adulthood. The appearance of sincerity is not sincerity, and since most people (thankfully) are terribly liars, the difference is often detected fairly quickly.

Don Power August 23, 2011 at 8:05 am

There’s a bit from Groucho Marx, I think, where he says, “Sincerity is the key to great relationships in business. Now, if we could just fake that, we’d have it made”. Too many people are always trying to cut corners…

Hey Fergus, you might be interested in this post: “Do you really what it means to be sincere?” >

And if luck is your game, then check this out:

- Don

Jonathan@Medical Coding Certification February 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Surely one of the most important jobs a parent can do is build a child’s self-esteem. Praise is a vital part of that – but if it is to have any meaning, it’s got to be for something worthwhile. But a child’s efforts don’t have to be perfect to be good enough to be praised.

Fergus Gibson August 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm

In fact, as a perfectionist, I would say perfection can be a disease. There’s nothing wrong with seeking incremental improvement if you know when to draw the line; but to attempt to achieve, and worse to expect, perfection is destructive.

Clark from Bath Accountants January 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm


That’s what I’m worried about, turning the kid into an emo. Because last thing we need is another “soft” adult in society, no?

Don Power August 12, 2011 at 11:07 am

Even the soft have a right to be here Clark. I’d just prefer my own kids to be strong, prepared, yet flexible.


- Don

(By the way, I’m only vaguely familiar with what an emo is. One step less extreme than a goth, I’m guessing ?)

Fergus Gibson August 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I think the interpretation of “emo” varies somewhat from place to place, but the way it’s most often presented to me is of someone who is constantly in severe depression, has extreme learned helplessness, attention and sympathy seeking. The stereotype involves mental dysfunction the point of chronic self-harm and the extreme of listening to My Chemical Romance. If you’re not familiar with their music, be grateful.

I’d say emo is a big step worse than goth. Like “goth to the max”.

I’d say the world could use more sensitive people, but obviously we need our society to consistent of functional individuals who may need help from time-to-time but by and large are able to stand on their own. One can be sensitive and still functional, but emo is sensitive to an extreme of severe dysfunction.

Don Power August 23, 2011 at 8:06 am

In that case Fergus, I’d rather elmo than emo!


- Don

Maria Pavel@CNA Training January 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I’m totally against, showing warmth to the child – creates a more in-touch relationship. You must praise your child to make him know that he is on the right path and you are proud of him, it’s your own child after all – you must be very careful with him and loving carrying. You must praise you children as much as possible but also when he makes mistakes – tell him that he done wrong, don’t spoil him but don’t make him a emo. Have a great day, Maria.

Don Power January 27, 2011 at 11:48 am

Thanks Maria! You had me worried with your first sentence “I’m totally against, showing warmth to the child…” but the rest of your comment tells the story.

Thanks again for taking time and inclination to comment!

- Don

free online translations January 24, 2011 at 2:05 am

Praising your kid is never too much. It was proved that kids being praised in childhood are more harmonious when there are mature. So keep praising your kids.

Don Power January 26, 2011 at 12:41 am

Thanks FOT – I plan on it! Cheers and thanks for your comment. Hope to see more comments from you too!

- Don

Chuck Lasker January 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I agree completely, Don. Of course, all things in balance. Praising something done lazily, like a failed homework assignment that the child is perfectly capable of acing, helps no one. At that point, though, even criticism can be sandwiched by praise. “I know you are capable of doing extremely well with this type of work. You just didn’t try here and that’s disappointing. But I know you want to do well and next time you’re going to do great.”

But to be constantly praising children for their efforts is 100% positive and beneficial.

Don Power January 21, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Hey again Chuck – a double shot of comments from you – thanks!

Yes, I use the sandwich technique when unpraiseworthy behaviour enters the picture.

And ike I said – the look of pride and love and joy in the face of my children is what works for me at the end of the day.


- Don
.-= Don Power´s last blog ..Do What the Gurus Do =-.

Chuck Lasker January 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Interesting topics, Don. With two kids, one 33 and the other 26, I have some experience with raising children. They turned out pretty good, too!

Don Power January 26, 2011 at 12:40 am

Well done Chuck!

Christian Marriage Counseling January 21, 2011 at 5:40 am

Indeed praising your kids too much is a bad thing for them.

Don Power January 21, 2011 at 10:07 am

I disagree wholeheartedly. As a Christian counselor – how can you possibly take the position that to much praise is a bad thing?
.-= Don Power´s last blog ..A Brave New World – of Distraction =-.

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