Praising children has been a staple topic of parenting for a while, and there’s still a lot of different opinions about it. How can we help build our kids’ self-esteem without giving them an inflated ego or making them feel entitled? What specific things can we say and do to celebrate their choices and yet not give the message that their worth and our love is dependent on their accomplishments? Here are some ideas to keep in mind when giving praise.
Give Praise That Sticks
It seems that we often praise things that are temporary. For example, a woman that hears that she’s cute over and over again may feel empty or incomplete if she one day loses her looks. While it’s not necessarily bad to compliment someone’s appearance, try to focus more on things that are more permanent and important. Also, constantly praising every little thing a child does may come off as insincere; instead go for quality, not quantity, and give meaningful praise that will likely stick.
Praise Things A Child Can Control
We should strive to primarily praise our children’s efforts and choices (rather than their innate talents or abilities). Saying “you’re so smart!” to a young boy may seem fairly innocent, but this statement of praise may cause him to question his own self-worth when he encounters something challenging. Young people really internalize what we tell them, so as parents let’s be extra careful to not inadvertently send the message that they are more or less worthy depending on what they can or cannot do. By instead praising what a child can control, you are pointing out strengths of character and also encouraging good behavior in the future.
Everyone Needs Praise
All of us, children and adults alike, have an innate desire to be noticed and validated. Praise should not be the only thing that motivates or fulfills us, but we still need it in our relationships, and being stingy with praise can set up a child for a lifetime of neediness and insecurity. We as parents should be the main source of praise for our children, not as a way to coddle or enable them, but as a means of helping in their growth and development and strengthening our relationship with them.
What are YOUR experiences with praising children?