I’ve always tended to heap on the praise when it comes to my kids. Raising self-confident kids has long been my goal, and so I set out early on to let them know how fabulous I thought they were–starting at a very young age. While my motives were in the right place, it turns out that my cheerleading might not have been as good for them as I intended. A fascinating article about how to raise kids that won’t give up in the April issue of Parents magazine says that when kids are constantly praised, they become addicted to the spotlight and can fall apart when things don’t come easily.
The article was a very helpful read for me. My oldest tends to shut down when he can’t master something on the first try. Writing his name, kicking a soccer ball, even putting on his socks, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “But it’s too hard!” No parent wants to raise a kid who quits easily, and this article gave some really good advice on how to squelch the “I can’t” response.
Here are a few of the best tips I took away:
Tone down the cheerleading. This was a huge eye opener for me. I totally identified with the writer who admitted, “I dole out kudos to my three children the way I do tissues for runny noses–often and abundantly.” Instead of praising children for their results or abilities (“What a beautiful picture!”), parents should highlight the effort (“You must have worked really hard at that!”) The key is teaching children that achievement is linked to hard work.
Break down goals. Learning a new skill can be daunting, so help your children develop a game plan when they want to learn a new skill like ice skating or cleaning their room. “When you show a child how to do something step by step, it’s a lot less intimidating for him,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, author of “Your Children Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You.”
Build on Past Successes. Learning perseverance carries over into all areas of a child’s life. Once your little guy masters Lego-building, he’ll have an easier time tackling a tricky task in the future like learning to write his name. Remind your child of past triumphs to encourage her in the challenging task she faces today. Jane Bonenberger of Wyndmoor, Penn. helped her son improve at guitar by remembering his success in baseball. “We talk about his first season, when he couldn’t hit at all, compared with now, when he’s smacking the ball and loving it,” she says.