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Overpraised and overtired: 2 key parenting mistakes that will screw up your kid

Parenting mistakes to avoid: too much praise, too little sleep. Lessons in parental restraint from Nurture Shock


It’s easy to get lost among all the parenting advice, myths, research and conventional wisdom circulating about raising kids.


Often, one theory can directly contradict another.


One of our modern go-to guides when it comes to avoiding common parenting mistakes is Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.


In Nurture Shock, the authors directly tackle much of the contradicting wisdom about raising your kids to be well-adjusted in the modern world.


One of the main takeaways of Nurture Shock is to be easier on yourself (and your spouse) in your parenting journey.


The book encourages a level of experimentation and customization for your family situation, and doesn’t aim to be a comprehensive guide to avoiding any and all parenting mistakes.  In fact, the authors make a point to say that parents should embrace the fact that they are not (and cannot be) a perfect parent.


Nurture Shock does a great job of stepping in to correct child-rearing myths and misconceptions in a simple and practical way.


Two of the key points the book aims to address: overpraised and overtired kids.


1. You’re praising your kids too much


The “Mr. Rogers” generation thinks that they are all unique snowflakes, each special in their own way.


Now that this generation has had kids, they are imparting this message to their children, often to a concerning degree.




  • In experiments where one group of kids are praised for being smart and the other group isn’t, the non-praised kids consistently chose to take on more challenging tasks. The praised kids stuck with tasks they knew would be easy.


  • Research shows that kids as young as 7 know when their parents’ praise is insincere. When showered with praise, they are just as skeptical of the sincerity as adults.


  • While over-praise has a negative effect on subjects’ performance, the message that ‘the brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to grow’ improves math scores almost immediately.


  • Finally, in research on Chinese children, test subjects whose mothers criticized their results instead of praising the children improved their performance after each round of testing.


The results don’t speak kindly of over-praise, but that is not to say that you should stop praising your kids entirely.


Be more specific in your praise, and make sure that you are reserving praise for situations that actually merit it.


Discuss strategies for improvement in situations where praise isn’t called for; do so in a positive way.


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2. Your kids probably aren’t getting enough sleep


Everyone is aware that sleep is important for general well-being, maintaining energy levels, and overall development.


Sleep is one of many necessities for proper child development, in addition to reading, proper diet, and socialization.


Most parents believe that their kids are getting enough sleep.  But that’s not the case.


Ninety percent of American parents surveyed think their children are getting the proper amount of sleep. However, 60 percent of teens surveyed reported extreme daytime sleepiness.


Additionally, younger kids are sacrificing sleep.  Thy lose sleep in favor of homework, extracurricular activities, and quality time with friends or (gulp) parents.




  • Some scientists believe sleep deprivation during formative years can cause permanent changes in brain structure.


  • Links exist between lack of sleep and ADHD.


  • Sleep deprivation also correlates with increased obesity.


  • There is also a pronounced correlation between lack of sleep and poor academics.


  • When high schools decide to change their start times to one hour later, test scores improve dramatically.


You and your kids may both think that sleep isn’t an issue, but make sure that your kid is actually sleeping as much and as well as you believe.


Sleep is a basic need.  Make sure you prioritize it.


Stop with the over-scheduling.  Let your kid sleep.