We all want our children to do well. We praise them when they do well. Sometimes, when they don't do so well, we may still praise them. Surely this helps to build self-confidence? We may be doing more harm than good if we dish out false praise...
If we over-praise our children, we are lowering the bar for them. We are saying that their effort is good enough (even when it clearly isn't). We are telling them they do not need to keep trying, that they do not need to push themselves. Confidence doesn't develop by praising failure - it comes from acknowledging failure and learning from it, from trying and trying again. From practice.
By constantly complimenting our children, we can actually chip away at their self-esteem. They will either think that they are perfect, or try to be perfect all of the time. Both of these are, of course, impossible. It only results in creating trouble further down the line, when they discover they are not perfect at all.
The best thing we can do as parents is learn to step back. Confidence comes from taking chances. It comes from making mistakes and taking responsibility for them. It comes from learning from them. Too many parents try to rescue their child from failure, to swoop in before the opportunity of choice rears its head.
How can we let them learn, to develop self-confidence (not arrogance) but keep them safe?
Make their own choices
We can let them make their own age-appropriate choices. They soon remember consequences and relate to this in future decisions (for example, not wearing a coat might make them cold in Autumn, or certain shoes are not good on the beach).
Help at home
Little helping hands around the house lets a child understand that their contribution is valuable. This makes them feel competent and of some worth. Laying the table, tidying toys away, making the bed - simple activities can help your child begin to grow their own self-confidence.
Allow your child to join a club, or take up a sport. Let them appreciate that effort is needed to earn success. Children gain a great deal from seeing something through to completion.
What if you try these but your child struggles or fails?
If a child fails, it will not hurt them. As long as you make it clear that your love for them is unconditional and then set realistic goals that are within their reach, this can be a perfect learning opportunity. We don't love them just for that report card! We can see where we went wrong and try a different way. We can learn why it didn't work the first time. Sometimes, taking a step back and working on smaller goals is more helpful. For example, reading simpler stories, or a focus on different ways to learn that tricky multiplication table may just be all that is needed.
When used correctly, praise works wonders for a child's self-esteem. If they have tried hard, praise the effort and say what a good job they have done and why. This is far more effective than constantly telling them they are clever. Be specific.
We will know when we have helped them go from 'zero' to hero' . All our little superheroes have the same golden rule - 'Feel special. Set Goals. Keep trying!'