Confidence and high self-worth are the greatest gifts any parents can give their children. And yet, there are few children who have a real sense of self worth when praise is taken away from the equation. These days it is a tricky rope to tread – raising confident kids without over praise. But if truth be told, praise might be doing more harm than good and there appears no real connection between praise and confidence.
To build confidence, we need our children to understand the basic tenants of success. These are hard work, resilience and above all the ability to rise above failures. Any child who has been raised on a steady dose of praise would certainly crumble on first signs of failure. Research has long evidenced that children who are over praised, often chicken out on difficult tasks. The problem with praise is that it links self worth with result and not the process.
Consider this. Your child is good at spelling and is learning new words every minute. Unquestionably, you are really proud of her and compliment her often with phrases like ‘Wow! That’s is awesome’, ‘You are so good’. Now the same child when starts school, meets many more children just like her. In fact, some are even better! The setting has changed and now she is not complimented as often by her teachers as she was at home.
What do you think would happen here? Suddenly when this child stops hearing compliments, she is lost wondering if she is really good. That’s not what a confident child would think of any day! A confident child is one who would give her best shot without worrying too much if she is right. So this child, who is still smart and good at spelling, now starts hesitating for the fear of failure.
Children from young age need to realize that success comes from trying and working hard. That there are no short cuts and they are bound to fail certain times. When children are praised for trying, the dynamics of praise change. Labels do not matter for them. What they instead start looking for is appreciation for their effort and the process. Here are few examples to make that shift:
Your Child comes first in Race.
Instead of saying “ Wow! I am soo proud of you”, say “Wow! So all that practice paid off. Good Job!”
Your Child draws a neat Sketch.
Say “I can see how you have tried to pay attention to the details. I like that” instead of “This is a the most beautiful sketch I have seen”
Your Child is adding numbers really fast.
Instead of saying “ You are great at numbers!”, say “ I can see someone has been working on her numbers. Good!”
This small shift of praising the process and the effort can go a long way in building confidence. Once the child learns that labels can only be earned through slogging hard and long, it becomes easy for them to focus on the right ways. Such children do not shy from making mistakes rather look for opportunities to learn and take failures as stepping stones. This is the best gift we can give our children – a lifetime of confidence and self-worth!