Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Does praise really form high self-esteem?

Creating good self-esteem in your child means that you make him feel valuable and capable. A child with high self-esteem believes there is something he is good at and is more willing to try new activities.  Giving a child a good sense of self-esteem is like giving him wings to soar with. 

Most parents have been conditioned to think that the best way to give their child good self-esteem is to praise him and tell him “good job.”  Though I do believe you should praise and encourage your child, constant praise can actually be harmful.  
When your child is inundated with praise for every small accomplishment, he becomes addicted to it.  He hears “Great job putting the dishes away.”  “That picture is amazing.”  “I am so proud that you cleaned your room.”  That constant “reassurance” becomes commonplace to him.  He never has the chance to think about how he feels he has done because before he can even consider his emotions, we come in and TELL him how he should feel. “YOU did great,”  “I am proud.”

After a while, your child does not know he has done a good job until someone tells him.  Your child could work hard on a class assignment but doesn’t “feel” accomplished until you say, “You did a great job.”  He is conditioned to hear it from us.  Around the age of 13 (often earlier) our child begins to care less about what his parents, caregivers and teachers think of him and more about what his friends and peers think.  You have now trained him to only feel pride when others accept the accomplishment.  Your child begins to act in ways to get approval from other kids and we have a major issue with peer pressure. 

Wow I bet I just scared a few parents out there.  To think that could happen from just saying “good job” too much.  For me it is often an automatic response.  Changing this habit is hard.  But it is NEVER too late to start to form high self-esteem through teaching your child to take pride in his own work. 

1.       The next time you tell your child that he did a great job, add a question to the end of it.  “Great job putting the dishes away.  Did you work hard to finish them?”  “That picture is amazing!  Are you happy with how it looks?”  “I am so proud that you cleaned your room.  Does it feel good to have a clean room?” Ask questions that make your child consider if he likes his work and the feeling he gets from doing it. 
2.       As you begin to add these questions to your statement, eventually you will learn to put them at the beginning of your statement.
3.      Use the praise phrases for events that are really special or when you are having a special “moment.”  For example if he went out of his way to help someone or you are taking a walk with him.

Remember to let your child do things by himself whenever possible.  Things will not always be done the way you want them to and messes will get made.  But these are our “grown up” issues.  Look at the bigger picture, you are helping your child form a great sense of pride and helping him to be comfortable trying new things. 

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