Praising children is great – most of us should do it more – but even young children recognise constant praise as manipulative. They soon learn that it is meaningless flattery. Some children become self-esteem junkies and receive such a high level of praise they find it challenging when they move into another environment – like a new school – where praise is not doled out as much.
They don't need exaggerated or dishonest waffle. They will appreciate simple honesty far more if it is presented in a friendly, non-critical manner. If your child's homework is messy and full of mistakes, address the mess but also try to find something they have done well. "I like the way you got straight into this homework. You might have rushed a bit too much because your work is usually a bit neater."
One final tip – don't limit your praise to what is right in front of you – look a bit into the future. "I like what you've done. I can see that you are turning into a real artist!"