My child is two-years old and I realize I’ve been doing something wrong with him. Well, I’m sure I’m doing many things wrong. But this parenting offense has been happening just about every day by me and by most people around my boy.

How many times a day do you say, “Good job!” or “Nice work!” to your child when trying to enforce good behavior or just wanting to make your little one feel good? Apparently this type of compliment is a big No No according child development experts. Who knew?

Praise in this way teaches toddlers and children to crave outside approval. This um, might explain my own need for validation too. For little ones though, experts suggest that instead, say things like, “You did it all by yourself!” and “You must be proud of yourself!”

According to Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, author of Raising Boys Well and Praising Girls Well, “Overpraising a child can get her hooked on success and celebration instead of being satisfied by her own accomplishment.” This article on parents.com offers 10 suggested ways to praise your child.

My boy’s preschool teacher adds, “Praise your child for making decisions but have it ring true. Over praising can make children feel that they need to have someone else approve of everything they do. It’s more important, for example, to have him love his drawing and be proud, rather than have him only feel it’s great if you like it.”

Sounds like I don’t have to pour it on too thick anymore when he brings home those paintings he makes at preschool or put them up on our walls or fridge. Thank goodness!

In an article called, How Not to Talk to Your Kids, in New York Magazine by Po Bronson, I also learned that praising kids for being smart actually leads to insecurities. In recent studies, kids who were told they were smart avoided challenges that they thought they might fail at to avoid making mistakes. Kids who were instead praised for their effort did much better at school and were open to trying anything. So instead of telling your child, “You’re so smart” instead, praise them for their effort and tweak your comment to, “You must have worked really hard.”

Of course, I was just hanging out with my parents and after every piece of puzzle our boy put in place, they got up yelled “Yay! Great job!” I didn’t quite have the heart to tell them to stop. I’m not sure they would look at me like I was being a crazy, obsessed parent, and maybe they are right. In anycase, they are leaving for Florida anyway tomorrow so I’ll let it go.

I have loved giving my boy praise at every step of his way, but I had no idea my loving compliments could do more harm than good. I’m sure he’ll still hear a, “You’re smart or great job!” from me every now and then, but I’ll consider changing my ways. That’s what we do when raising little people, we make mistakes, change, tweak and grow every day. It’s all good! Actually what I meant to say is, “It’s all good effort!”