I watched a Mum praise her son for sneezing the other day ‘You’re so clever’ she said ? Are we in danger of over praising our kids?

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Are we in danger of over praising our kids?

We all think that self esteem is important as it boosts a child’s resilience. But has the balance swung too far as we praise far too easily & liberally for ‘normal’ things kids do?

I watched a Mum praise her son for sneezing the other day ‘You’re so clever’ she said ?

Self esteem was first mentioned in 1890 by the psychologist William James, who defined it as something that grows when you achieve a goal important to you.

It wasn’t until decades later in the 1960’s that the link between parenting & self esteem became inter related.

Self esteem seems to have become the magic bullet and answer to everything from happiness to success.

During the 1980’s & 1990’s Jean Twenge a psychology professor from San Diego State University showed that self esteem had dramatically increased in children as it was ‘everywhere’ from talk shows, parenting books, kids’ TV programmes to schools.

It became less about gaining inner confidence & resilience through persevering, trying & failing, setting some goals to aim for, overcoming challenges, to becoming all about a child’s right to be happy & to feel good no matter what.

Self esteem had become a panacea for everything.

But studies show that children who are over praised for being ‘clever’ ‘smart’ or ‘bright’ suffer from a lack of tenacity & they feel less ‘intelligent’ when they make normal mistakes.

When a child’s self worth & identity depends on being ‘clever’ they are less likely to persevere when they hit a challenge or an obstacle.

The research shows that children who have been praised for being ‘clever’ take failure and making mistakes & errors, personally & are less likely to persevere.

Their self esteem & resilience is actually hampered because they see making a mistake, or not knowing the answer to something, as a big blow to who they are. A wrong answer isn’t just a wrong answer it’s a blow to their self image & identity !

Christine Gross-Loh in her book ‘Parenting Without Borders’ suggests that in the USA things have gone too far with children growing up with an inflated sense of their own importance and ability due to parents constantly saying how ‘Awesome’ they are.

We may be a little more self-deprecating & modest here in the UK compared to ebullient American children but consider the cultural difference where in Japan speaking well about yourself is considered bad manners!

There’s a balance to be struck here.

I write a great deal about confidence, self esteem and helping children grown up capable and competent, resilient and happy within themselves.

One area to ‘Pause to Ponder’ is in your use of Praise versus Encouragement.

Do you know the difference between ‘Encouragement & Praise’ and the BIG difference it can make to your child’s confidence?

Click here to read more

I think The Butterfly Story sums up this elusive search for balance. Click here

As you go through your parenting journey, looking to raise happy, confident kids, keep in mind that struggling is an important part of any growth experience.

In fact, it is the struggle that causes your children to develop their ability to fly.

As parents your gift to your kids is to help them build stronger wings…


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