Why I Refuse To Praise My Kids For Anything Less Than 100%

And if that makes me too tough of a parent, so be it.

strict mother and son FWStudio / Shutterstock

Let me start by saying that I am extremely proud of my children.

I’m proud of their manners, their kind hearts, and their willingness to share with other children and not act like complete assh*les. I’m proud of their beauty, on the inside and the outside. I’m proud of their intelligent minds and sense of humor.

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I’m also proud of their talents. They both excel in different sports and have amazing artistic abilities. My daughter was playing the piano really well at the age of three. My son could draw a damn good Ninja Turtle by memory at the age of four. They’ve both been blessed with natural gifts that cause my husband and me to beam with pride.


Yes, I’ve seen my children shine in many things. But some things don’t come naturally to them, and I’ve cheered them on as they worked their butts off to achieve goals, both academically and athletically.

And I’ve also watched them slack and become sluggish in areas of practice and then wonder why they missed the goal or played the wrong note. When they don’t do their best, I am not one of those parents who will dote on them with praises and ice cream cones.  

Why? Because I don’t believe half-assed work should be rewarded.

My daughter recently played horribly in a basketball game. She was so busy chewing her nails and playing with her hair that she let several balls dribble right past her. She wasn’t at the top of her game and I was disappointed.


When she walked off the court after the game (without a single bead of sweat on her forehead), my mother and mother-in-law were waiting with open arms to shower her with “good jobs” and pats on the back. And quite frankly, it made me sick.

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There have been many times my daughter deserves applause but that day she did not. Her grandmothers were lying to her. She hadn’t done a good job.

My mother praised everything that I did as a child, even when I didn’t give 100%. After every mucked-up piano recital or lost softball game, she droned on and on about how well I had performed, even when I knew damn well that I'd sucked.


I was completely capable of fielding a ball or flawlessly playing a piano piece, but when I hadn’t practiced, it was always evident. I often didn’t deserve her praises, and over time, her always adoring attitude gave me a complex. I didn’t believe I had to work hard because everything I did, no matter how poorly, was good enough for Mommy.

During my school years, I often let coaches and teammates down because of my laziness. Unfortunately, that superior attitude of, “I’m amazing at everything” stuck with me throughout college. I learned really quickly, from professors with stern voices and cold eyes, that I was not the bee’s knees. Without effort and hard work, I was mediocre at best.

As I grew older, I began to realize that my mother was too easy on me during my childhood.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound ungrateful for her. I have a wonderful mother who has always made me feel loved. But sometimes I needed tough love instead of adoration. Since I was deprived of that, I had to learn on my own, through many trials and failures, that success does not come easily.


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What I needed to hear from my mom after any subpar performance was, “I know what you are capable of doing and I didn’t see that today. You didn’t give it your best. But if you practice really hard, I know you’ll do better next time."

Maybe my feelings would have been hurt by her truthful words. Maybe I would’ve rolled my eyes and sighed and aggressively heaved my softball bag into her trunk. But maybe I would have practiced my butt off and been an asset to my team at the next game. 

Don’t confuse my lack of praise for abuse.

I never tell my kids that they suck. I always offer encouragement. But I refuse to lie to them and tell them they did a wonderful job, in athletics or academics when they obviously didn’t. I will never let them believe that not practicing or failing to give it all they’ve got is okay. 


I see so many parents and grandparents doing this, my family and in-laws included. They believe that in order to show children love, you must constantly praise them. This is simply not true.

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If my daughter had been aggressive and not been chewing her cuticles during her game, yet she still failed to block those shots, I wouldn't have been disappointed. I would have applauded her for doing her best because that’s what matters. She would’ve gotten a “good job” and a chocolate ice cream cone.


It’s not about being perfect or winning. 

It’s about giving it your all.

And I’ll never praise anything less than 100%.

Alex Alexander is a pseudonym. The author of this article is known to YourTango, but is choosing to remain anonymous.