Want your kids to grow up confident and successful? Be careful about how you praise them, says toxic-parenting researcher Jennifer Breheny Wallace.
Rather than highlighting their achievements, like a good grade on a report card, focus on the specific character traits that help enable their success, says Wallace, the author of “Never Enough: When Achievement Pressure Becomes Toxic — and What We Can Do About It.”
“Noticing other people’s strengths, and acknowledging them, makes people around us feel like they matter,” she tells CNBC Make It.
For her book, Wallace interviewed child psychologists and surveyed 6,500 parents across the U.S. while working with Richard Weissbourd, a child psychologist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. (Wallace herself also holds a degree from Harvard University.)
Spotlighting kids’ honesty, creativity and other positive attributes often helped them grow in emotionally healthy ways, Wallace’s research found. People become “stronger and more mature, less by being praised and more by being known,” she recalls Weissbourd saying.
“We [need to] see what is inherently valuable in them,” says Wallace. “Things that have nothing to do with external achievements.”