For parents who undoubtedly love their children more than anything else, giving out praises may seem like the best way to boost their confidence. They feel that by doling out compliments generously to their kids, they’re helping their young ones build better self-esteem.
But experts in parenting believe that praising kids too much, even if they don’t really deserve it, may actually do more harm than good.
According to Jim Taylor, author of “Your Kids Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You”, self-esteem stems from feeling secure and loved by parents, as well as from developing competence.
Parents often don’t have trouble showering their kids with love and security, but the third ingredient: competence or the ability to be good or efficient at something – is something that the child needs to develop himself.
The dangers of overpraising
Over-praising kids, according to Taylor, can actually do more harm than good. By loosely giving out praises, parents are lowering the bar for their children. For example, if you keep telling your child he’s doing a great job even if he isn’t, it’s like you’re telling him he no longer needs to improve or push himself to do better.
Being a supportive parent
Being supportive is different from supporting your child’s every endeavor. Moms are mostly guilty of falling into the trap of “baby-ing” their child into dependence. In order for your child to develop self-esteem and confidence, you will have to control your initial reaction of always coming to the rescue.
Here are some important pointers to remember:
1) Allow your child to take risks and solve his own problems – according to Toronto-based corporate childcare service CEO, Victoria Sopik, instead of trying to rescue him from failure, you should allow your child to take chances, make decisions and take responsibility for their choices.
2) Let your child make his own choices – kids develop confidence from the empowerment brought about by decision making. Spoik says that as early as two years old, a toddler can already start considering consequences of their choices.
3) Let kids help you out at home – kids feel competent when they feel that they have contributed something valuable to their parents.
4) Encourage kids to pursue what they like – part of helping boost your child’s interest is to cheer him on with the tasks he shows interest in and to make sure he follows through until the task is completed.
Dealing with failure
Seeing their child distraught from failure is one of the many things that can break a parent’s heart, but don’t feel down…failure is actually a good opportunity for your child to build the self-esteem. How can you turn this sad event into an enriching experience?
1) Let your child know that you love them no matter what – kids need to be reassured that they are loved even if they fail or make wrong decisions.
2) Guide your child towards reachable goals appropriate to his age and abilities - you know your child the most so be sure you lead him towards activities where he can feel like a star.
3) Praise him appropriately – if your child has done something commendable, it’s your job to acknowledge it with praise.
4) Keep a “brag file” for him – keep track of your child’s special achievements like a compilation of his highest test scores, “Very Good” ribbons he got from his classes or copy of school programs where his name is printed on. This way, whenever he fails and feels down, you can take out the “brag file” for him to see. This should cheer him up and give him the will to keep trying.
Other confidence-boosting techniques
There are also other ways that you can build your child’s confidence, apart from choosing appropriate praise and helping him deal with failure.
1) Give your full attention – when your child speaks to you, show him your undivided attention. This will make him feel that he is important to you and that you value what he has to say.
2) Give him rules and consequences if he breaks them – a child needs to learn about taking responsibility for one’s actions.
3) Set a good example – according to San Francisco State University assistant professor of elementary education Daniel Meier, you can send a powerful message to your child when you yourself can acknowledge a mistake committed and show him the right way to recover from failure.
4) Stop making comparisons – the lines “why can’t you be more like ____” can lead to feelings of envy, shame, and competition.
Your child will grow up more confident if he knows he is loved unconditionally and you are appreciative of his efforts no matter if he succeeds or not.