Your six-year-old has made a drawing and you tell them it was a great piece and put it up on the refrigerator. They do a dance routine and you clap with enthusiasm. They recite a poem and you exclaim it was a good job done.
Now it has become the norm that your child demands praise for any independent accomplishment of theirs. You are now wondering whether you have done the right thing by encouraging them with praise in the first place.
Understanding when, where and how to praise in an important tool in raising confident kids with a healthy self-esteem.
- Do not go to extremes: Praising the child all the time can lead to them putting themselves on a pedestal that can actually hinder their growth. They may feel afraid to try out anything new where they might not be able to top their parents’ expectations. They also develop this constant need for validation from their parents about their performance. On the other hand, little or no praise also can be damaging. They feel that they are not good enough, that you do not care and they see no point in trying at all.
- Focus on the quality, not the quantity: Sincere and genuine praise based on the efforts, not the outcome, is the key to building a healthy self-esteem. This can be given as often as the situation warrants. Embrace opportunities to celebrate their success and achievements. “You really worked hard on that drawing,” tells them you noticed and appreciated their effort. They learn the difference between something that comes easy and something they have to work hard for.
- Be specific with your praise: Of course, your child is pretty, handsome, smart and talented. When your child gets used to you telling them this very often they find these words empty and with little meaning. Instead, focus on the specific things you noticed and appreciated. Even when they do not win. “Your backstroke is good.” “You really can mix colours well.”
- Set realistic standards: Your child should not feel that they have to stress themselves out to get a line of praise for you. While setting the benchmark for praise make sure it is something you child is capable of achieving with some sincere effort.
- When praise is not needed: Praise is needed when they start on a new activity and they need some confidence building to start off. However if your child is good at an activity they love anyway, maybe there is no need to praise them there. Your child then starts associating praise with that activity and loses interest when you stop praising.
- No comparisons, only achievements: Use praise as a tool to help them master the skills. Do not praise your child for out -performing their peers. Remember this kind of praise works only when your child finishes first. The minute they lose their competitive edge, they lose their motivation for the task. They make poor losers. It makes them feel that social standing and not mastering is the goal. Children who are praised for mastering the goal show motivation.
Praise should highlight the way your child uses the qualities or aptitudes they possess. Let it focus on the perseverance your child displays. It makes for a confident and happy child.