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Building A Child's Self-Worth With Constructive Praise
Years ago during a teacher training session, I viewed a video called Zero In The Snow. It is a story about a little boy living with his parents who are so busy with life that they ignore his need for attention. His attempts to show his dad a picture drawn in school result in him being told to go away. He tries to get his mom to talk to him in the kitchen before breakfast and is waved away with, I'm busy right now." At school he sits quietly in the background, no one plays with him on the playground, and the teacher never acknowledges him at any time in the classroom. The story ends with the bus pulling up to his home, the door opens, and the little boy topples over into a snowbank. Dead from a broken heart.
As sad as the movie is, it points out how children receiving little or no positive encouragement through praise in the home or at school suffer emotionally. Such damage will deter growth socially and lead to poor self worth. Their self esteem is hampered through lack of positive reinforcements that help build a child's character.
Helpful Parenting Advice
- What Makes A Child Special?
Every child has unique character traits that make him or her a special person. Parents can work with children to help them establish a good sense of themselves through every day circumstances.
- Is My Child Too Young To Read?
Reading begins at birth. Teaching an infant or toddler to love books leads to higher social, emotional and intellectual aptitude in pre-school. Use learning activities to stimulate reading.
Parenting With Constructive Praise
A simple definition of self worth is, the opinion you have about yourself and the value you place on yourself. An example of self worth is your belief that you are a good person who deserves good things or your belief that you are a bad person who deserves bad things.(source: yourdictionary.com)
As parents and teachers we have the privilege of building a child's self worth. When we see a child do a good deed or demonstrate good behavior we say, "I'm so proud of you!" or "Good job!", which is positive but it doesn't guide the child as to what was done that was worthy of the praise. Statements of praise must be constructive and lead the child to understand what he or she did was based on accomplishment.
Have you ever given your child too much of a good thing? if you constantly give your child extra helpings of dessert after dinner it will do more harm than good, and may even lose its value as a treat. In the same fashion, we must praise and encourage children so that they connect the words given with their ability to achieve success or accomplishments. If we use the same simple phrases such as, good job, nice effort, way to go, etc., we may give the impression that their self worth is based upon uncontrollable factors. Children cannot perceive how "good" is measured.
For example, your child shows you their report card which is all A's for the semester, you smile and say, "Wow, you are so smart!" Yes, she is smart but now you have set the standard for the next report card's scores. In her brain, it is recorded as, A's = Smart. If she fails to achieve theses high scores on the next report card, her self worth will drop. A better way to show your encouragement/praise is to say something like, "Good job on the report card. It shows that you are really working hard and enjoying your school work." This gives constructive praise and encourages the child on the action accomplished. She doesn't feel like there is a certain standard she has to achieve to be "good".
Parents and teachers will often use praise paired with negative sentiments. Offering praise in this way will negate the constructive encouragement meant to give the child a boost in self esteem. Here's an example, "Thanks for putting your toys away, Brandon, but your forgot to make your bed." It leads the child to think "I'm OK but I failed." That simple little word but negates what the child accomplished and will dampen their self worth.
Documentary On Using Praise Effectively
Constructive Self-Worth Phrasing
Shown below is a table with examples of positive praise. In the left column is the action the child accomplishes and in the right column is constructive praise or words of encouragement. The phrase will help a child understand how the effort or accomplishment was valued. This will encourage a repeat of the action and allow the child to build self worth with an understanding that what he or she does is meaningful.
Examples of Positive Praise
Child helps set the table
You really made the table look nice. There's a cup by every plate.
Child puts his toys away
You really helped get the job done fast and it helps everyone.
Child plays with friend
You and Kayla played together with the dolls for a long time this morning. That was really nice.
Child shows you his picture/creation
You look pleased. I like the way you used the different shades of color.
Child buttons coat by herself
You look happy that you were able to do this all by yourself.
Child asks you to watch them run
You have such strong legs and are running faster every day!
Child helps sister/friend
Your sister/friend was so happy to have your help today.
A simple, "Good job!" appropriately given at the right time may be all that is needed, but try to use phrases as often as possible so that a child will gain strong self worth from his accomplishments. If you have any additional suggestions to add to this content, please list them in the comment section below.
Before you leave and just for fun, take the quiz and see if you can figure out which phrase is the better praise in each of the sentences below.