Like the old saying says,"There is only one prettiest child in the world and every mother has it". As parents it's natural for us to be proud of our children, but sometimes what starts out as well meaning encouragement can turn them into monsters...and that only makes sense. In the over effuse, effervescent world of everybody wins it's easy for a kid to take that tiny step from a healthy sense of self esteem into Divaland.
Of course as parents we only have the best of intentions. We love our children, we support our children, and we want them to know it. Every parenting book out there has information on how to build your child's self esteem, and how important it is to do so. What the books are lacking, however, is a guide to instilling self esteem without making them think they are The Great and Powerful Oz.
Here are some thoughts from Juice Box Jungle on the subject....
and failed at a lot of things. Instead, my method is to focus on one particular thing that our kid honestly did well and then to ask their opinion about their work. So in the end, my compliments to the kids might look like this:
Monkey: Look Mommy-I drew a picture of a car!
Me: Well look at that! The squares you drew for the tail lights look great! What's your favorite part of your drawing?
Monkey: I liked drawing the tires. That was a lot of fun....but I didn't like drawing the shocks. Sometimes that's hard.
Me: You're right, that is hard. Let's ask Daddy if he can give you some ideas about how to draw shocks on your car.
This method acknowledges the parts he did well, helps him to look critically at his own work, and provides the opportunity for him to seek help to improve....and as for his self esteem?
Well, he still thinks he's the coolest 5 year old in the world. His words.
Another important part of building a healthy sense of self esteem, without your kid's head getting so big that it doubles as a Goodyear Blimp, is to teach them give sincere compliments to others. This is actually a lot easier than it sounds. The first step, like everything else in parenting, is to lead by example. Give sincere compliments to people around you-not just your kids. Even if they are small compliments, they will notice. Tell Daddy his tie matches well. Tell grandpa his car looks really clean. Tell auntie that she was a big help with the crossword puzzle. Then give your child the opportunity to compliment other people. Ask them-What is your favorite thing about grandpa? What do you think of your sister's hair? If you give them the example, and then give them the opportunity it usually works out well.
Though I should warn you to be prepared for the occasional inappropriate comment. Because, you know, kids say the darndest things.
In the end, it's not necessary to pump your kids full of compliments-in fact, it may even do more harm than good-but giving your kids well placed, sincere compliments, the opportunity to assess their own work, and the skills to appreciate and compliment others will keep them down to earth while still giving them that internal confidence from knowing that your Mommy and Daddy think you rock.