The second principle of helping children develop self-esteem is to acknowledge their successes and abilities. This is particularly important when children accomplished some desired task.
How to apply the second principle to develop self-esteem in children
While it is important to acknowledge children’s accomplishments, it is not necessary to praise them all of the time for completing activities and various tasks that they are expected to complete. In fact, when a child hears praise all the time, it may lead to a number of unintended consequences:
- The child may come to rely on external praise in order to act rather than doing it because of motivation from within.
- The praise may begin to seem insincere and empty, especially if it is used all of the time, even for things that should be done as a matter of course. Consequently, praise loses meaning for the child.
- It can encourage perfectionism, especially if the praise is reserved for a perfect, completed performance and is said with great enthusiasm. The child may feel that what he does is not acceptable unless it can be completed and be perfect.
- The child may only do things because caregivers notice and may begin to stop doing things he enjoys simply for the pleasure of doing them.
Encouragement vs. praise
Many experts recommend providing encouragement on an ongoing basis rather than praise for completing a task. Encouragement can take many forms. According to author Virginia Satir, “Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of the parent gives the child some message about his worth.”
Giving children words to describe themselves can enable them to see themselves in a positive way. Here are some phrases or words that encourage positive self-esteem in children. Remember that the more specific the message, the more valuable it will be to the child.
- That’s really coming along well!
- You did it all yourself!
- I’m really proud of you for starting your homework before your television program.
- Thanks! When you set the table for dinner, that helps me a lot.
- I liked the way you tried again even though it didn’t work the first time.
- You must have really worked hard on this one.
- You are really improving with your reading. I like how you sounded out those words.
- You have made so much progress this year.
- You are being very nice to your little sister by sharing your toy.
- You really worked hard on that painting
When children cannot manage an activity or experience failure, it is important to encourage them to talk about it and to help them try again. Sometimes providing children with some new strategies and being available to help if it becomes too difficult can be very helpful to overcome their feelings of low self-esteem that may otherwise result.
More to come in my next post on this valuable topic. Thanks for reading Lakeside Connect.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network