18 In My Top Parenting Tips/ Parenting Solutions

A Super Simple Way to Empower Your Child

A way to encourage kids without the pitfalls of praise! I do this all of the time and now I know it is a good thing!

If you have been reading the news recently, you’ve probably seen something about how praising children too much can lead to their inability to handle failure, less motivation, and even to an inflated sense of self (or worse narcissism). If you are like me, you are left wondering what to do?

A way to encourage kids without the pitfalls of praise! I do this all of the time and now I know it is a good thing!


Here is one simple and easy way to encourage your children without the pitfalls of praise.

Give them a big High Five! 

Brad Morris and Shannon Zentall are a husband-wife team who study education, parenting and child development. Shannon is a friend of mine and also happens to have had the same graduate advisor as I did. I think they are brilliant for coming up with this study.

As they put it, research has looked at clear-cut verbal praise, but that is only one way children are praised in the real world. More often children are praised ambiguously (e.g. yay!, Wow! Good job!), rather than in a clear-cut manner. One study showed that about 66% of the praise given to toddlers during free play was ambiguous praise. Some of that ambiguous praise could also be in the form of hand gestures like a thumbs up or a high five.

In their study, they looked at kindergarteners and examined four types of praise: praising a personal trait “you are a good drawer,” praising a child’s effort “You did a good job working on that drawing”, ambiguous verbal praise “Wow!”, and ambiguous gestural praise (thumbs up & high five). This is what they found:

  • Children who were “trait” praised (e.g. you are a good drawer) were the least motivated on a task and showed less enjoyment for the task.
  • Children who were praised on their effort (e.g. you worked hard on that drawing) or given ambiguous praise (e.g. Wow! High Five) showed higher task enjoyment and persistence, even after task errors.

In other words, ambiguous praise worked just as well as praising a child’s effort.

Children attributed a high-five or a “Wow!” to their hard work.

And not only that, but the children who felt the most positive about themselves and their drawings were the ones who received the gestural praises — the thumbs up or the high five. I think this makes sense. When parents or teachers observe a child accomplish something and we are genuinely happy for them or impressed we say “High Five!” in a celebratory tone and hold up our hand.

In doing this, we are sharing in their sense of accomplishment and we celebrate the moment with them.

This is a little different than offering praise, which makes children realize we have recognized their work. With an enthusiastic high five, we are joining them in their success instead of simply recognizing it.

So, next time your child accomplishes something, join in the fun and give them a big high five!!!

Here are some other articles about how to praise children:

How to Use Praise to Build Your Child Up

Ways to Praise by Dr. Amanda Williford

Carol Dweck Revisits the Growth Mindset From Education Week




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  • Creatively Homespun
    March 30, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Love this. We a are BIG High Five Family. lol Thanks for sharing at the Marvelous Monday Link up!
    Creatively Homespun recently posted…Paleo Almond Crusted Tilapia RecipeMy Profile

  • Christina
    March 30, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I love this! High fives are awesome! 🙂
    Christina recently posted…How Much Water Does Your Garden Need?My Profile

  • Catherine Holt
    March 31, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Love it. My daughter always giggles when given a high five.

    Thanks for linking up to Marvelous Monday on Smart Party Planning.
    Catherine Holt recently posted…Gooey, Chewy Warm Easter Egg CookiesMy Profile

  • Keri
    March 31, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Cool. I never though about different kinds of praise having a different effect. Time for more high fives!
    Keri recently posted…Lemon drop candy recipeMy Profile

  • Janine Halloran
    March 31, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    We use thumbs up and high fives all the time!
    Janine Halloran recently posted…The Zones of RegulationMy Profile

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      April 2, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Good! We do too, I think it is a natural thing and it’s good to know they attribute it their effort!

  • How to Build Up Your Child - Busy Moms Helper
    April 1, 2015 at 8:27 am

    […] For more on how to build up your child come on over to Nurture and Thrive for The POWER of a High 5! […]

  • Let kids be kids
    April 1, 2015 at 9:00 am

    I’d not thought about it before but I think this is true, when I give my children a high 5 for praise, the smiles on their faces are much greater than when I just say the picture is good.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids
    Let kids be kids recently posted…Easter egg cupcakesMy Profile

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      April 2, 2015 at 10:44 am

      I know! I was so excited when I found out about this research bc the same is true in our house.

  • Steph @ Steph in Thyme
    April 1, 2015 at 10:07 am

    What a great article, I never thought about this before! Thanks for the sharing thorough research and insight!
    Steph @ Steph in Thyme recently posted…Creamy Purple Potato & Leek GratinMy Profile

  • Elizabeth
    April 2, 2015 at 9:13 am

    So glad we’ve crossed paths! So glad you joined us for Tuesday Talk~

    Home of “Tuesday Talk” and “Pincrazy Thursday”

  • Debi @ Surroundings by Debi
    April 2, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    My grandchildren love high fives! I will have to give them even more! It was great to see you at the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop!

  • Samantha @ Stir the Wonder
    April 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    We are always giving high fives in our house! Thanks for linking up at the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop! We hope you join us again next week!
    Samantha @ Stir the Wonder recently posted…The Ultimate Guide to Hands-On Lesson PlanningMy Profile

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    April 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

    […] This was a very interesting read about giving high-5’s from Nurture and thrive. […]

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    May 3, 2015 at 1:06 am

    […] builds your child up without backfiring see “How to Build Up your Child” and “The Power of a High Five” by Ashley from Nurture and Thrive Blog. Optimistic thinking has been linked with a lot of […]

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    […] the same issues, check out these posts from Nurture and Thrive for great advice on using praise: the Power of a High Five, and How to Build Up Your […]

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