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I have come to think that this is perhaps the most critical part of all parenting.  Get this right and much of the rest will fall into place. Get it wrong and you can permanently damage your child’s life prospects. And I don’t write that lightly.

Praise is clearly an important part of any relationship. If you have worked for someone who doesn’t know how to praise, or lived with someone who never shows appreciation, you will know what I mean! We should all be looking for ways to praise and thank people for their efforts.  With a child we set our “rule of 5” which means you should find five opportunities to praise your child for each time you give any form of criticism, advice or admonishment. Otherwise you will find your advice and criticism just bounces off.

But here is the key question: what is the right way to praise your child?

With children we are hoping to help them improve their performance and development. To maximise the benefit of your praise, the evidence is that you should praise someone’s effort, not their ability:

If you stop to think about it, I think that what the report says does fit with one’s own experience.

For example, I accept that I am intelligent in many senses and I am happy that I have been lucky in that way. I know I am pretty dumb in others too! Frankly, I have had no involvement in either because they are genetic traits, so I take no real pride in my strengths and try to find humour in my weaknesses! It is pure vanity to take pride in your natural abilities. They are gifts that should come with responsibilities.

However, I know I have worked pretty hard over the years, despite being quite lazy by nature. I do take pride in that, because it has been my choice. I have had control over it and I have changed the path of my life through my actions. So, if you praise me for what I have achieved through application that will definitely give me a warm glow!  It will also help me continue to apply myself too.

So I do think it makes sense to focus your praise on the effort your child has made to achieve something, rather than their brilliance. As the report says, overpraising someone’s brilliance can be very limiting to their psychology, although I personally think that some praise of a child’s talent can also help open their belief in what they can achieve if they work hard.

As ever, nothing is simple.

David Morgan is Managing Director of the Easyread System, an online synthetic phonics course designed to help struggling children learn how to read.