As children are growing and learning about the world and themselves, they need lots of encouragement and guidance to help them maneuver safely and successfully through each challenge and accomplishment they encounter. One of our goals as parents is to help our child learn how to make good choices and behave in a conscientious manner with confidence. Sometimes, it seems like the easiest way to get to a good choice is to tell your child what they are doing wrong or that they have done something bad. But this can have lasting, negative effects on a child and their self-esteem, if all they hear is what they’ve done wrong.
Children that grow up to be confident adults with strong positive self-esteem have lived with solid positive feedback and encouragement. This does not mean, however, that those children were never in trouble or that their parents did not discipline them if their actions warranted such. It means that there was a strong focus on what they do well, on making good choices, on problem solving, and being thoughtful.
As a parent though, it can be hard sometimes to find the right encouraging words or to not be critical of your child. To get beyond the habit of saying, “no!” or “don’t do that” or “that’s not the right way”, start focusing on what your child has done right, what they excel at, and things that they do that make you happy. Encourage those actions, and you will soon see a happier, more thoughtful, more confident child.
Start With an Encouraging Word
One of the easiest ways to tell your child they’ve done something you like or that they have made a good choice is to simply to tell them how happy their actions make you. But, you can only tell your child, “good job!” so much, before it loses its shine. Here are some other ways you can tell your child they are doing great without saying, “Good job”.
- You are learning fast!
- You are really working hard.
- That is the best you have ever done.
- I knew you could do it!
- You’ve got it.
- That’s the way!
- I’m proud of you.
- You are very good at that.
- I’m impressed.
- You’re on the right track.
- You made that look easy!
- You’ve really improved.
- I like the way you did that.
- Excellent job!
- Now you’ve got the hang of it.
- I can tell you were really paying attention.
- You figured that out fast!
- Way to go!
- Wow! Look at you!
- I can tell you’ve been practicing.
- How unique.
- Good thinking!
- Congratulations! You did it!
- I appreciate the way you handled that.
- I appreciate your hard work.
- You are really great at________.
There are tons of other options for telling your child they have made you happy or they have done a good job. Find the ones that work for you and go with it. Your child will be so happy to know you are happy and they will start to feel great about themselves!
Encourage Critical Thinking to Build Confidence
A thinking child, is a successful child. While telling your child they are awesome is a fantastic way to start building their confidence, there is another way to help your child become confident and most especially, thoughtful.
Encouraging critical thinking skills is a great way to help a child learn, be successful and grow confidence. It is also a great way to correct behavior or steer a child to a good choice without being critical.
As your child grows older, instead of just praising their work or efforts, ask them about what they have been working on. Say to them, “Wow! Your drawing is great. Can you tell me the story behind it?” or, “I really like your fort, how did you come up with the design?” These kind of questions do two things: they tell your child you think they have done a good job and; you give them the opportunity to think about their work, and to express themselves about something they are proud of. This one step will work wonders in growing self-esteem and critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking can also be used to guide your child away from a bad choice or to help them work through a problem without being critical of their choice or action. If you observe your child doing something that you would rather they don’t do, or it is dangerous, ask them to stop for a moment. Instead of telling them what they are doing is unsafe or wrong, ask them if what they are doing is a good choice. This question will stop them in their tracks and gets them to think about what they are doing. You can also ask them what the likely outcome of their action might be. When they make the better choice you can use those encouraging words. They will soon realize that thinking about their actions and making a good choice will again earn your praise.
This same technique can be used if your child is struggling with a problem, perhaps they have tough homework or cannot get pieces of a puzzle to go together. Encourage them to stop, step back and think about the problem. Help them by asking questions and helping them see the problem differently. When they come to the answer, or things come together, your child will be proud of themselves for the accomplishment, you will be proud of them, and you have built their confidence by helping them think critically through a problem.
Keep Things On the UP
As adults, life can throw lots of negatives our way. And the reality is, sometimes it is really hard to be positive and not critical. We will all slip up from time to time and return to that critical eye, and every now and then, it’s ok. Remember, your children will learn by your example. To create positive, confident children, do your very best to be positive, confident and thoughtful when you are around them. Give positive encouragement and be a critical thinker. Your child will grow confident, have great self-esteem and be a conscientious person before you know it!