Praise and criticism

It is amazing how the language we use can encourage our children. Here is an interesting piece from the Growing Child newsletter distributed by Lifestart

There are two ways to praise a child for something she has done. You can say, as you watch her finish her latest artwork, “Oh, what a lovely picture. It looks just like a sunset. You are a good artist.” Or you can say, “I like the way the colours drip together. You really used a lot of paint this time.”

When you say her painting is a lovely picture, perhaps the praise fails to match what the child has actually done. She has been experimenting with how it works. You say it is a sunset. She knows it isn’t, but she keeps that her little secret. She understands that her picture has to be something for you to like it, that practicing with paint isn’t worthy of praise. She knows she isn’t an artist—but she’ll go along to win your praise.

The second way to praise states the obvious: She has used a lot of paint, and you appreciate that. You like the way the colours drip together. What gives her pleasure gives you pleasure, too. Her experimenting with colour is an admired skill. She did it well. Praising her this way helps her to judge her work appropriately, to feel that what she actually does is valued by people who count.

There are two ways to criticize a child for something she has done. You can say, as her glass of milk spills onto the floor: “Look what you’ve done. You are so clumsy.” Or you can say, “You put your glass too close to the edge of the table. Now help me clean up this milk.” When you tell a child what she is—a clumsy person—you judge her. She is always clumsy, and will always be. But when you tell her exactly what she has done, she can judge her action as it really is. She can avoid spilling her milk like that next time.

No parent exasperated by mud tracks on the floor or stepped-on crayons in the rug, can resist saying “careless.” And most times, by the twentieth scribble, no long really interested, we say “beautiful” without a thought. But if parents can avoid for much of the time praise and criticism that judges the child herself, and instead judge the product or the action, a child will become more able to measure her behaviour, to pursue what she is good at, to work on what is difficult, to like herself the way she is.

The GROWING TOGETHER NEWSLETTER is issued by; GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363.

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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