Can you give your child too much positive attention

Can You Give Your Child too Much Positive Attention?

30 November 2020
Posted by: Read2Grow

As experts in the child care industry, we’ve often heard questions related to the subject of “spoiling a child”.

So we thought we’d share the common questions that have come up over the years and what we believe is best for the child.

Here they are in no particular order…

Can I give my child too much positive attention?

No, you can’t. It is as simple as that.

Any thought to the contrary is a hang-over from Victorian times and appalling views such as “spare the rod and spoil the child”.

Looking at your child, smiling at them, showing you find them entertaining and amusing, going a little overboard with praise, picking them up if they’re crying – no child can be damaged by getting too much of these things.

Isn’t spoiling a child just the same as giving too much positive attention?

No, not at all.

Spoiling a child usually involves giving them almost everything they ask for on a whim and typically in the absence of teaching self-discipline and values.

Spoiling is not going to happen by smiles and praise alone!

What about giving too much praise?

This can demand a little more parental judgement and subtlety.

In general terms, your child’s efforts and achievements should always get lots of praise from you but there is a slight risk that this can be taken too far.

For example, you might have noticed your child wasn’t really putting much effort into their school play or sports day for whatever reason. In such circumstances, heaping praise on them means they’ll see through you very quickly and that might mean they’re less trusting of your praise in future.

Better to ask whether there was a problem. Also, remember to avoid criticism other than in very specific circumstances. Kids don’t respond well to “you were rubbish” type statements from their parents.

How should I handle winning and losing?

Remember to give piles of attention and support when they’ve put real effort in – whether they succeeded or not. See the above point for where they didn’t put in a lot of effort to begin with.

In competitive success, try to encourage your child to be proud but also modest when they’ve achieved success. It’s better to avoid sentiments that suggest inevitability and triumphalism such as “the others had no chance against you, you’re clearly the best in the school” because it might ill-prepare them for one day not being the best or winning.

Try instead “everybody did really well – you should be very pleased”.

How can I give positive attention when I see they’re going the wrong way about something?

Virtually every parent has experienced the agony of seeing their child put their heart and soul into something but knowing that it is doomed to failure.

This is a dilemma. Giving positive attention whilst at the same time trying to point out to your child that they’re going to fail, is a huge challenge and needs to be handled with care.

Broadly speaking, avoid marching in and saying things like “that’ll never work, you want to do it like this..”. You’ll just demolish their confidence.

Instead, praise their invention and effort and ask if you can help. During the process, try to gently change their focus and approach onto lines that offer more likelihood of success.

Remember, the fact you’re showing an interest at all is the positive attention kids will be looking for.

Should I always praise their ambitions and interests?

In almost all cases, yes (assuming no significant danger is involved of course).

Children love nothing more than the praise and support they get from parents when they’re setting out to do something.

In the case of slightly older children, there may be some rare cases where the goal they have set themselves is going, by definition, to result in extreme disappointment. Each individual case will need to be considered as to whether you praise and support them to ‘go for it ‘ irrespective or try to gently point out that it will never happen.

This one is never easy for parents.

Can positive attention and discipline be reconciled?


Remember, positive attention doesn’t mean saying that everything they do is right. If they’re naughty, that needs to be pointed out to them in constructive terms. If you want to keep it positive and constructive, do not get angry!

Discipline must also be maintained in the context of plenty of other positive attention. For example, it’s not a good idea for a child to see that the only way they can get serious attention from you is to misbehave. If they think that, they’ll deliver increasing amounts of bad behaviour accordingly.

So, tell them where they have been naughty and explain why. Ask them to apologise and then don’t leave in a “job done!” fashion but instead find the time to engage in positive activities afterwards.


Every child is different and approaches may vary in the circumstances of your particular child. As we have said previously, we don’t believe in “one size fits all” where children are concerned. So it’s important to be very well in tune with your child to discern how best to deal with every situation.

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