In our fast-paced, high-tech culture, sometimes it is difficult to know whether we are using modern technology (cell phones, email, Facebook, blogs, etc.) as a substitute for connection or a tool to enhance and enrich our closeness and connection with one another.
This section is provided to support you in staying connected to what is most important: your personal relationships. Its second purpose is to provide a well-spring of ideas, tools for change, encouragement and support.
Stay tuned and stay in touch because we'll be adding new things frequently!
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Shifting from Praise to
One of the biggest misconceptions about creating healthy self-esteem in children is that praise is an important ingredient in building it. But praise actually depletes self-esteem. Why? Because it causes children to become dependent on what other people think, instead of focusing on what makes them happy and how they feel about themselves and their actions. Praise promotes pleasing others and relying on others for validation.
Encouragement and effective feedback, on the other hand, engage children and teens, and help them understand themselves better and accept their true value and uniqueness. When positive feedback is given thoughtfully, it enables children to connect the dots from their behavior to the results of that behavior. It clearly shows children their impact in their world and gives them helpful information so they can replicate productive actions in the future or even improve upon them.
If you've been doling out praise, try switching to more meaningful feedback that is encouraging. Here are the critical components of effective feedback in building strong and healthy self-esteem in children and teens:
- The feedback must be believable to the child or teen. Instead of saying,
"You are so amazing!" try making it more relevant to the child by
saying, "What amazes me about you is how consistently you apply yourself
even when you're in the middle of a demanding season of football."
- Effective feedback needs to be specific so that the child understands unmistakably what is praiseworthy and can act on the feedback constructively. So instead of "Awesome job!" you might say, "It was awesome to see how your effort and intense focus landed you that A in science. You must feel really good about yourself."
- Encouragement is internally motivating, meaning that children are motivated from inside, rather than being dependent on validation from outside. This feedback often inspires the child to take their behavior, skill, or accomplishment to the next level and increases their self-worth. Instead of "Good girl!" you could say something like, "Cleaning up the kitchen with you last night was lots of fun because you were so cheerful. And your help allowed our family to have more time to play together."
- Whatever is said must be sincere. If you make a comment to manipulate, the child may resent it and disregard the feedback as just a way for you to get them to do something you want.
- Encouragement invokes self-reflection and introspection, which causes the child to understand himself or herself better, and to recognize their contribution and value in the world. Instead of, "Good work!" you might ask, "What do you think enabled you to improve that C in science to an A?" or "What do you like most about the picture you drew?"
Remember that as you shift your responses from praise to more authentic encouragement, it may feel contrived and clumsy initially. This is often true when we begin using a new skill. Be patient as you practice giving effective feedback. One of the most important things in parenting is to keep yourself encouraged. Be attentive to your own needs and take care of yourself. Stay encouraged as you give encouragement-and watch the astonishing results!
For a more in-depth look at praise versus encouragement and effective feedback, please read my article "Praise-Sweet Destroyer of Self-Esteem.
Jennifer is very dynamic, easy to listen to, fun and yet professional.