6 ways to praise without spoiling your tot

Sure, complimenting your kid is good for her self-esteem but overdoing it can turn her into an entitled brat!

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For obvious reasons, praising your kids can lead to a whole lot of good for your little one’s well-being. It boosts her confidence and self-esteem while keeping her motivated to do her best. It also shows your tot that you are aware of her struggles and triumphs.

Even for parents, it feels good for you to praise your progeny because they represent the best of you.

Parenting specialist with Focus on the Family Sarah Chua points out that the lack of compliments can actually leave your kids feeling unloved. “Just as children have physical needs such as food and shelter to grow up healthy, they also have emotional needs such as receiving affirmation, attention and affection from their parents.”

“When parents praise their children for every little thing they do, even when they have not done anything to deserve it, the parents’ words can become meaningless and will sow doubts about their sincerity.”

While commending junior can do wonders for her well-being, overdoing it can have ill effects, too. Overpraising your kids can cause problems:

* Your praises become nothing more than words Getting praised for every little thing she does can eave your kiddo feeling like your kind words are just part of a habit. Chua notes, “When parents praise their children for every little thing they do, even when they have not done anything to deserve it, the parents’ words can become meaningless and will sow doubts about their sincerity.”

* Junior feels misunderstood or underappreciated Chua explains, “The child may conclude that her parents don’t actually know she is really good at.”

* Creating insecurities Your kiddo may become too reliant on your praises that she feels empty without it.

* Nurturing your child’s narcissistic tendencies A person with high self-esteem sees herself as an equal with others. A narcissist, on the other hand, thinks of herself as better than everyone else. If you routinely tell your kids how they are not like the others, you may turn them into overconfident individuals. Chua explains, “They may be proud and think of themselves as better than other children, and even start to put others down.”

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You don’t have to stop praising your kids altogether just so you avoid these problems. You just need to be judicious — and sincere — in the way you dish out compliments. Here’s how:

1. It’s not about how often but when you praise your tot Chua stresses praising your kids is important, but it must also be done at an appropriate time. “Parents should be on the look-out for opportunities to offer genuine and well-deserved praise.” For instance, when your kiddo passes a subject she has been struggling with or takes the initiative to do something for the family. Praising when effort is taken to achieve something has a far greater positive effect.

2. Be specific Effective praises reinforces positive, constructive behaviour and is highly specific. Skip saying, “well done!” in favour of “I like the way you did (activity) today.”

3. Commend them for their character and values Repeatedly showering your kiddo with compliments on the way she looks is a sure-fire way to nurture an oversized ego. Try to focus on the intangibles like values, morals and principles, which tend to be overlooked and undervalued. Chua shares, “Although accomplishments are [temporary], their character and values carry them through a lifetime.”

Praising when effort is taken to achieve something has a far greater positive effect.

4. Compliment them at home, not in public While it may make your little one feel extra special when you praise her in front of others, it is also a great way to get uninvited to parties. More importantly, the objective in praising is to let your child feel better about herself and not to tell her that she’s better than everyone else. Remember: high self-esteem, not narcissism, is what you’re aiming for.

5. Make an observation, not praise If your kiddo has been struggling with her shoe laces but manages to do so on her own, instead of saying “You’re so clever!” you should make a simple observation, instead. “You did it!”

6. Ask questions to show you take an interest When your kiddo comes home with his art work in hand, ask her questions about the choice of colours or shapes. Like compliments, these questions show that you take notice of her efforts.

Photo: iStock

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