Question About Praise

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Praise is like candy!


I'm at my wits end with my 13-year-old girl. We have been following Positive Discipline for about 2 years now and it's changed so much in our house with how we act and speak to our girls, our other daughter is 9.

This last month we are having a problem with the "Praise" word with our 13 year old. She's very clever at school and gets amazing grades; she loves school! So the last few tests she's had she's come home and told us the results and my husband and I have both said to her "Wow, amazing results Zara! You must be so proud and you clearly did the hard work and it's paid off!"

She floored us when she replied, "Why can't you just say you're so proud of me, like all the other normal parents??!"

We tried to explain that we're trying to raise her into the best possible adult that she can be, and that we've changed our parenting actions and the words we use over the last few years for the better.

We used to use more Super Nanny methods, like time-out or send her to bed early when she had bad behavior, and now she much prefers the "Calm Corner" which we all use and then talk when we've calmed down and we use 3 R's of Recovery From Mistakes regularly! We have Family Meetings weekly, which definitely have changed a lot in our house—jobs, opportunities with mistakes etc.... But just this one thing my husband and I have no idea how to tackle it???

I've listened over and over in my car to Empowering Teenagers and that particular section with Praise vs. Encouragement, and I understand it. But what can we do to undo the previous years of saying to our daughter. I'm so proud of you!!??

My husband says she's like a junkie now and having withdrawal symptoms from our old style of parenting and she's older now and more cluey...but if we say we're so proud of her, aren't we just unraveling all the positive changes that we've been making??

Should I sit her down and say of course we're so proud of you and you're working so hard at school and getting amazing results that you should be very proud of yourself, more importantly!

HELP please. Also, it would be awesome if you did a positive discipline course in Sydney Australia.

Kind regards,



Hi Jill, I'm so glad you asked this question. I know you represent so many parents who struggle with this issue.

First I want to clarify a point I have been making lately: It can be ineffective to use a tool as a "technique" without understanding the principle behind the tool. When you understand the principle, and take in into your heart and wisdom, there are many ways to use the tools so they don't sound like scripts. I heard your heart and your wisdom loud and clear when you wrote: "Should I sit her down and say of course we're so proud of you and you're working so hard at school and getting amazing results that you should be very proud of yourself, more importantly!"

I'm sure you are very proud of her—so tell her.

Let me explain.

The principle behind encouragement and praise is "encouragement". The challenge is that too much praise might sound encouraging short term, but create too much dependence on the opinion of others. However, we may overdo long-term encouragement at the expense of short-term encouragement. Both are important. The statement you made from your heart and wisdom accomplishes both.

Since she is so "cluey" (love that word) admit that you made a mistake and didn't tell her the truth about how proud you are of her because you were afraid that it might make her dependent on the opinion of others. Let her know what a relief it is to tell her how proud you are and that you would also love to hear how proud she is of herself.

Remember, that praise is like candy. A little can taste so good and be so satisfying. Too much can be damaging to long-term health. So enjoy dishing out a little praise, and keep doing all the other things you are doing, such as family meetings and enjoying each other along the way.

Jane Nelsen

PS. You can check our Parent Educator Map to see if there are Positive Discipline classes in Sydney.  

Follow-up From Jill 

Your answer is such a relief and makes so much sense. I like the way you said it was like candy. So this morning we both went into our daughter’s room and had a talk with her; and she was happy with our explanation. We had a group hug and all is well - thank you!

Online Learning

Positive Discipline offers online learning options for parents, teachers, and parent educators. Learn in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. You have unlimited access to our online streaming programs, so you can watch and re-watch the videos as often as you like.