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I called Don and Carrie Cole, a husband-and-wife couples counselor team trained through the Gottman Institute, the Seattle-based center whose research is cited all over the Atlantic piece. " (Active constructive)The last one, obviously, puts the others to shame."'Oh, that's nice' isn't necessarily unkind," Carrie Cole says.When you tell your partner you aced an exam or landed a job or met a nerve-wracking deadline, how he or she responds lifts you up or cuts you to the quick, says Don Cole."Successful couples are tuned in and know what's going on inside their partner's head and heart," he says. "But it's not what your partner needs at that moment."She needs a reminder that her big deals are your big deals, that her happiness is your happiness."There is something about praising your child constantly that is belittling," Berman says."There's an underlying message that the child has to get his parent's approval all the time and constantly look to the parent for validation." Still, don't go too far in the other direction."Of all the people who get married, only 3 in 10 remain in healthy, happy marriages." In its entirety, Smith's "Masters of Love" article is less pessimistic, focusing on what sets successful couples apart.She cites research from social scientists, psychologists and marriage counselors and concludes that, mostly, it comes down to being nice."If you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it's often a breakdown of kindness," she writes.This applies to lousy, spirit-breaking times in your marriage.It also applies to the good times."How someone responds to a partner's good news," she writes, "can have dramatic consequences for the relationship."This stopped me cold. Why is it so easy to forget to genuinely celebrate each other's victories, large and small?

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When you applaud your child for things that aren't true achievements (she goes down the slide or hangs up her coat without your help), she'll begin to expect praise all the time, which diminishes its power.

We've gone to the opposite extreme of a few decades ago when parents tended to be more strict.

And now we overpraise our children." By giving kids heaping portions of praise, parents think they're building their children's confidence and sense of self, when, in fact, it may be just the opposite.

"Somehow, parents have come to believe that by praising their kids they improve their self-esteem," Paul Donahue, Ph D, founder and director of Child Development Associates, says.

"Though well-intentioned, putting kids on a pedestal at an early age can actually hinder their growth." Too much praise can backfire, it seems, and, when given in a way that's insincere, make kids afraid to try new things or take a risk for fear of not being able to stay on top where their parent's praise has put them.

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