It is totally cool to be generous with compliments for your children, but the big question is are you saying the right things? This is how making small changes to how you compliment your child can have a big impact on their self-esteem.
“Great job on the A!”
When your child earns an A on an assignment, test or examination, it can be hard to stop yourself from exclaiming, “You’re so incredibly smart!” Using strong adverbs and adjectives like “incredibly” or “amazing” can actually have a negative effect on kids.
For children with low self-esteem, “inflated praise may inadvertently pressure them to perform exceptionally well at all times,” and they may start avoiding more challenging tasks in order to preserve their sense of self.
“You won the championship! Only one out of 6 teams gets to say that!”
Regardless of their self-esteem, no child should be given more praise than is required. Inflated praise is easily seen for what it is—an exaggeration. It can eventually make children either mistrust you or discount what you say as parents.
When a child with low self-esteem does something well, give accurate praise but give them a boost by commenting on how the external world might see it: “You won the principals cup championship game! Only one team out of 6 gets to say that!”
“You took so many shots on goal!”
Rather than spending time on what went wrong, look for the positive and compliment your kid for what they did well. Praise the elements of an action you want to see again whether it’s a win or a loss. For instance, the team might have lost the game, but it was great to watch him or her take a shot at goal four times.
“You really gave it your all!”
person-oriented praise, such as “You’re so smart!” or “You’re the best!” addresses what kids with low self-esteem perceive as unchangeable traits, such as intelligence or athleticism.
Using these compliments may make them believe, ‘If I can do it, I’m smart. Therefore, if I can’t do it, I’m not smart’. Process-oriented praise, (such as, “I can see how hard you’re trying”) on the other hand, allows children to seek challenging tasks because they believe they can meet these realistic expectations.