The Power of Character: How Focusing on Traits, Not Achievements, Shapes Successful Children

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

In a world obsessed with achievements and external validation, toxic-parenting researcher Jennifer Breheny Wallace offers a refreshing perspective on raising successful children. Wallace argues that focusing on character traits rather than achievements can have a profound impact on children’s emotional well-being and future success. Drawing from her extensive research and collaboration with child psychologists, Wallace sheds light on the importance of acknowledging and nurturing the inherent qualities that contribute to a child’s growth and development.

The Power of Acknowledgment

Wallace’s research, conducted through interviews with child psychologists and a survey of 6,500 parents across the United States, highlights the transformative power of acknowledging children’s character traits. By recognizing qualities such as honesty, creativity, and resilience, parents can foster emotional health and resilience in their children. According to Wallace, this approach allows children to feel seen and valued for who they are, rather than solely for their achievements.

Moving Away from Achievement Pressure

In today’s hyper-competitive society, children face immense pressure to excel academically and in extracurricular activities. This pressure can lead to toxic levels of stress and anxiety, ultimately hindering their overall well-being. Wallace’s research suggests that by shifting the focus away from external achievements and towards character traits, parents can alleviate some of this pressure. By emphasizing qualities like kindness, empathy, and perseverance, parents can provide a more balanced and holistic approach to their children’s development.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence

Wallace’s findings align with the growing emphasis on emotional intelligence in child development. By prioritizing character traits, parents can help children develop a strong sense of self-awareness, empathy, and resilience. These skills are vital for navigating complex social relationships and adapting to the challenges of adulthood. By nurturing emotional intelligence, parents lay the foundation for their children’s long-term success and well-being.

Shaping Confident and Successful Individuals

Wallace’s research reveals that children who are praised for their character traits, rather than just their achievements, tend to develop a stronger sense of self-worth and confidence. By recognizing and nurturing their inherent strengths, children are empowered to embrace their uniqueness and pursue their passions. This approach fosters a growth mindset, where children understand that their abilities can be developed through effort and perseverance.

The Importance of Authenticity

Wallace emphasizes the significance of authenticity in parenting. By genuinely recognizing and appreciating children’s character traits, parents create a safe and nurturing environment where children can be their true selves. This authenticity allows children to develop a strong sense of identity and self-acceptance, which are crucial for their overall well-being and success.


In a society that often prioritizes achievements and external validation, toxic-parenting researcher Jennifer Breheny Wallace offers a powerful alternative. By focusing on character traits rather than achievements, parents can shape confident and successful individuals. Wallace’s research highlights the transformative impact of acknowledging and nurturing children’s inherent qualities. By emphasizing kindness, empathy, and resilience, parents provide a holistic approach to their children’s development, fostering emotional intelligence and long-term well-being. Ultimately, this shift in parenting mindset allows children to thrive as they embrace their unique strengths and navigate the complexities of life with confidence and resilience.






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