Across the school years both parents and teachers aim to raise self-confident children with a positive sense of themselves. In this respect, recent and interesting findings have been published in the Child Development Journal’s special section. Some of the conclusions have been summarized by the University of Amsterdam, underlining that the support parents give their children (Harris, et al., 2017) and parental warmth perceived by the children (Brummelman, et al. 2015) help to develop high self-esteem, but extremely positive and inflated praise has an adverse effect on children (Brummelman, et al., 2017), especially in those with low self-esteem (Brummelman, et al., 2016, Brummelman, et al., 2017).
Regarding praise, some important elements refer to the how, why and when we praise our kids; as praise comes in different forms and doses (Brummelman, et al., 2016).
Often, we find ourselves desiring to give extremely positive feedback to our children with low self-esteem, but we might rethink it, as it has been studied that this inclination may backfires (Brummelman, et al., 2016). The authors argue, that the inflated evaluation sets a standard which can be perceived as unachievable by children with lower self-esteem, affecting their self-confidence over time as they can be afraid of their future performance. “Children who are praised for doing incredibly well might infer that they should do incredibly well all the time” (Brummelman, et al., 2016, p.113). Meanwhile, for those with higher self-esteem, the lavish praise can develop narcissism (Brummelman, et al. 2015; Brummelman, et al., 2017).
It is pertinent to mention that “when children are praised for their personal qualities, such as their intelligence or worth, they may believe these qualities are something they either have or do not have – a fixed mindset” (Brummelman, et al., 2016, p.112). This fixed mindset can cause avoidance of challenges in children, while having a growth mindset (the belief that cognitive skills can be developed through effort and education) can have a positive influence on motivation and a willingness to take risks (Haimovitz & Dweck, 2017). Overall, showing genuine interest in children’s activities as well as sharing joy with them seem to be a central axis for guiding them towards a healthy self-esteem and feeling appreciated by others (Harris, et al., 2017).
- Maria Albornoz, Secondary School SEN Teacher
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