Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. If you continually shower your child with phrases of praise such as “Good job” and “You’re so smart,” you could be setting him up for a fear of failure. Hand out praise in small doses.
In their attempt to help children develop self-esteem, some parents tend to go overboard. Praise that is constantly doled out becomes meaningless. Although positive self-esteem is important to a child’s success in life, it is more likely to develop from positive feedback rather than empty praise.
According to the National Network for Child Care, praising a child too much can lead him to fall into the great expectations trap. The child feels as though he has to perform at higher levels to gain the love and approval of his parents. He might stop trying for fear of failure. Resist the urge to brag about your child’s every accomplishment to others. Although it is normal to be proud, bragging can put more pressure on the child to perform up to your expectations.
Give an A for Effort
Parents often overlook effort and focus on results. For example, an A on the report card earns praise and rewards, but if a child’s grade went from a D to a C, that deserves praise too. Praise the child for his hard work that brought the grade up. Let him know you appreciate his efforts.
Lavishing children with a barrage of general praise might make children feel as though they didn’t do anything to earn the praise. Instead of saying, “You’re such a wonderful child,” tell him what he did that was wonderful. If your son cleaned up his room, specifically point out how he cleaned his room. You could say, “You put all of your toys back in the toy box. I see you hung up your coat and put your shoes in the closet.” By being specific, you acknowledge your child’s efforts rather than praising the results. Keep track of your child’s progress and praise improvement. Praise can be an effective teaching tool if it provides the child with specific information.
The goal of healthful praise is to help your child recognize and become confident in his own abilities. It’s OK to be your child’s personal cheerleader, as long as you are realistic when spouting praise. Gushing over everything your child does prevents him from learning his strengths and weaknesses. Positive feedback can encourage a child to use his natural talents and help him put more effort in areas that need improvement.
Walk the Line
Recognize the difference between self-esteem and self-respect. Self-respect is acceptance of your own character and conduct whereas self-esteem is more dependent on external feedback, according to Helen McGrath, adjunct professor in the School of Education at RMIT University. As parents, we praise children because we want them to feel good about themselves, but praising them for everything they do can lead to a type of artificial self-esteem rather than true self-respect. This type of self-esteem can lead children to develop a high sense of entitlement. Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, suggests that this kind of high self-esteem can lead to the development of narcissism.