Do You Praise Your Kid Too Much?
From the Editors of Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet All parents want their kids to feel like they can take on the world. So you may naturally gush over her every scribble, tied shoelace and successful trip to the potty. But is that the best strategy to build competence today and success in the future? “Confidence is not something you can bestow like a gift,” says Vickie Holland, a parenting coach in Santa Monica, Calif., and the author of the forthcoming book Parenting That Works. “You have to give kids a roadmap for finding confidence from within. It’s the difference between giving someone a fish and teaching them to fish: They need the tools to succeed, without your help.” Here’s Holland’s advice for providing your child with opportunities every day to say, “I’m strong! I can do this!”
- Put him to work. Give age-appropriate jobs to your child, such as watering plants, feeding the fish, pairing his socks or making his bed. Completing a task provides a sense of accomplishment and fosters pride in his abilities.
- Let her solve her own problems. Resist the urge to rescue! Giving her a chance to troubleshoot the spilled box of blocks or the cup she can’t reach empowers her to think for herself, learn new skills and tackle new challenges with confidence.
- Give him choices. Crayons or chalk? Cereal or muffin? The opportunity to make simple everyday decisions gives him a sense of control over his life and instills the belief that his opinions are valued.
- Cultivate his inner approval system. A big “Wow!” from you can turn a simple watercolor into a masterpiece, but it also pins his self-worth on your reaction. Instead, help him find approval from within by asking what he likes about his creation. When you do give feedback, be specific (e.g., “I like how you made the sun’s rays come up from behind the mountains”).
- Emphasize effort over talents. Whether she aces a task or comes up short, praise her effort over natural talent or smarts, because effort is something she can control. When you praise her efforts, it reinforces the idea that her actions make a difference.
- Take her seriously. Spend time with your kid on her terms — playing with LEGOs on the floor or trying on silly hats — and truly hear and consider her ideas (no matter how zany). Giving her your time and attention validates her sense of self. It sends the message, “You’re important.”
Praise may provide a temporary boost in confidence, but allowing your child to develop skills on his own helps him to believe in his capabilities. And that’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.
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