The Power of Character: How Focusing on Traits, Not Achievements, Can Shape Children’s Success

Toxic-parenting researcher Jennifer Breheny Wallace reveals the importance of praising character traits over achievements in raising confident and successful children.

In a society that often places a premium on external achievements, toxic-parenting researcher Jennifer Breheny Wallace offers a fresh perspective on raising confident and successful children. In her book, “Never Enough: When Achievement Pressure Becomes Toxic — and What We Can Do About It,” Wallace emphasizes the significance of focusing on character traits rather than highlighting achievements. Drawing on interviews with child psychologists and a survey of 6,500 parents, Wallace provides valuable insights into the power of acknowledging and nurturing positive attributes in children.

Shifting the Focus: From Achievements to Character Traits

Wallace’s research reveals that instead of solely praising children for their achievements, it is more beneficial to highlight their character traits. By recognizing and appreciating their honesty, creativity, and other positive attributes, parents can foster emotional growth and resilience in their children. According to Wallace, this approach helps children develop into stronger and more mature individuals, as they feel valued for who they are rather than what they achieve.

The Importance of Acknowledgment

Wallace emphasizes the significance of acknowledging other people’s strengths, as it conveys the message that they matter. By noticing and appreciating the positive qualities in others, parents can create an environment that nurtures self-esteem and confidence. This approach not only benefits the children but also fosters positive relationships and a sense of belonging within the family unit.

Moving Beyond External Achievements

Wallace suggests that parents should look beyond external achievements and focus on intrinsic qualities that are inherently valuable in their children. By encouraging and recognizing traits such as empathy, resilience, and kindness, parents can instill a strong sense of self-worth in their children. This shift in perspective helps children develop a well-rounded identity that extends beyond academic or extracurricular accomplishments.

Expert Insights and Research Findings

Wallace’s research is fortified by insights from child psychologists, including Richard Weissbourd from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Weissbourd emphasizes that individuals become stronger and more mature not through excessive praise but through being truly known and understood. By valuing and appreciating children for their character traits, parents can create an environment that promotes emotional well-being and personal growth.

The Impact on Children’s Success

Focusing on character traits rather than achievements sets the stage for long-term success in children. By nurturing qualities such as resilience, creativity, and honesty, parents equip their children with the tools necessary to navigate challenges and setbacks. This approach fosters a growth mindset, allowing children to view failures as opportunities for learning and personal development.

Cultivating Emotional Health

Wallace’s research highlights the importance of emotional health in children’s overall well-being. By shifting the focus from external achievements to character traits, parents can create an environment that prioritizes emotional intelligence and resilience. This, in turn, allows children to develop healthy coping mechanisms and a strong sense of self-awareness.


Jennifer Breheny Wallace’s research offers a valuable perspective on parenting that challenges the prevailing emphasis on achievements. By shifting the focus to character traits, parents can foster emotional health, resilience, and long-term success in their children. Recognizing and appreciating the inherent value in children goes beyond external accomplishments and allows them to thrive as individuals. As parents, it is crucial to create an environment that nurtures and celebrates the unique qualities that make each child special. By doing so, we empower our children to grow into confident and successful individuals who value themselves for who they are, not just what they achieve.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *