Three characteristics usually determine whether a comment is one of praise or one of acknowledgment:
1. Praise often starts with a reference to oneself: “I am so proud of you for . . . .” or “I like the way . . . .” Even “I noticed that . . . .” can be a trap because it focuses on what you think rather than on simply acknowledging what your child has done.
2. Praise is patronizing. If you would not make the comment to an adult, then think twice before making it to a young person.
3. Praise is often stated as a general comment, such as, “That’s good.” An acknowledgment, by contrast, calls attention to a specific behavior: “You put your toys away!”
If you could have a conversation with a child and ask which would be more personally satisfying, (1) receiving praise or (2) being recognized, more often than not the child would prefer the recognition. Therefore, instead of heaping on praise, simply readjust your thinking and bring attention to things the child does successfully. This approach encourages persistence, which leads to more success.