Parents use praise and encouragement to nurture their kids’ self-esteem and boost confidence. Praise is a positive reinforcement strategy we use to acknowledge our kids’ positive behaviors and make them feel good about themselves.
In response to this recognition, the child typically wants to continue doing the good thing you praised them for.
Praise is a valuable parenting strategy as it helps the child learn how to feel and think positively about themselves. As such, praise can be a great way to nurture confidence and self-esteem.
However, parents should be careful about what kind of praise they give how often they do it.
Children who receive only praise may lack intrinsic motivation – they learn to do things to make adults happy, not because they are naturally motivated for specific behavior. This is because praise involves evaluation and judgment, and as such, it sends the message that the child needs to behave in a certain way to please adults who give praise.
Also, overpraising the child’s talents or outcomes can have adverse effects. It may cause the child to seek validation from others or to develop performance anxiety. They may become overly self-critical and engage in self-sabotaging behaviors, which can harm the child’s self-esteem.
So, how to know what the right way to give praise is? Here is how parents of mentally strong and self-assured kids praise their children.
They Praise the Process Instead of the Outcome or Talents
When giving praise, parents of mentally strong kids are descriptive as much as possible.
This helps the child understand which aspect of their behavior was successful. For example, you can say, “I am so proud of the effort you put into this task,” instead of using generic praise such as “Good job.”
Research shows that praising kids for their intelligence can reduce their motivation and performance. On the other hand, praising the process can boost the child’s confidence even when they make mistakes.
When you praise the process instead of intelligence, accomplishments, or skills, children are more likely to develop intrinsic motivation and a growth mindset. It also helps them learn to view challenges as opportunities, not obstacles.
They Encourage the Growth Mindset
Based on her research, psychologist Carol Dweck distinguishes between the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. She argues that this distinction can explain the difference in people’s functioning and success.
According to Carol Dweck, the growth mindset is a powerful motivating force people with the growth mindset see their skills, intelligence, and traits as qualities that can be improved with time and effort.
Children with the growth mindset grow into lifetime learners. They are not afraid of challenges and tend to see mistakes as learning opportunities. Therefore, these kids tend to have strong self-esteem. They are less anxious about their skills and performance. Growth-oriented children are also more likely to be curious and enjoy the process of learning.
On the other hand, children and adults with the fixed mindset tend to avoid efforts because they believe that people are born with fixed skills and intelligence that cannot be changed or improved.
To encourage a growth mindset, teach them the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Encourage and praise their efforts and learning process (e.g., working hard to complete a school project) and teach them to value the process over the results.
Model the growth mindset for your children with your behavior and encourage them to view mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. Instead of praising their talents or achievements, teach your children to overcome self-criticism and be self-compassionate.
They Don’t Compare Their Kids to Other Children
We all compare our kids sometimes, telling them that they are more intelligent or more skilled than other children. Although little competition does not hurt (and, of course, you do it with good intentions), be careful not to fall into the trap of competitive parenting.
Competitive parenting describes our tendency to compare our children to other kids or ourselves against other parents’ parenting styles, causing us ongoing stress and putting a lot of pressure on our children.
Also, using a comparison to praise the child can promote selfishness, egoism, and attention-seeking behaviors in kids as they become preoccupied with the idea of winning and being the best.
A child who always wants to be the best may have a lack of altruism and teamwork values. As a result, they may begin to lie or cheat to avoid losing.
Moreover, children who are too focused on competing may struggle with low self-esteem or become anxious or depressed (because they believe they are not good enough if they are not winning).
In short, by comparing your child to other kids, you are consciously or unconsciously sending the message that they need to accomplish something to deserve your love.
So, instead of teaching your child to compare themselves with others, teach them to constantly work on their self-growth and self-improvement, comparing their past and present efforts and skills and learning from mistakes.
When they fail, don’t criticize your child or compare them with a friend who succeeded. Teach them resilience instead – ask them what they think they can do to bounce back and improve next time.
Praise is a positive reinforcement strategy that helps kids feel happy and good about themselves. Parents use praise to boost their kids’ self-esteem and encourage feelings of self-worth and self-pride.
However, when praising your child, emphasize the process, not the outcome. Keep in mind that parents of confident and mentally strong kids praise their children for putting effort into something instead of honoring their skills or achievement.
Also, parents of self-assured kids nurture the growth mindset in their children, teaching them to view challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.
Praise can also be an effective way to set boundaries and provide behavior guidelines for our kids. When given the right way, praise can give the child a sense of emotional security and trust, knowing that parents are there for them whether they fail or succeed.