Use the Correct Praise to Build Self-Esteem!

Self-esteem is built by realistic praise. Remember, children know when praise is not realistic.


Use Realistic Praise for Self-Esteem

By CyberParent Staff


The more you praise your child, the more self esteem your child will have. This is correct, isn’t it?

Not necessarily. Kids have a way of knowing if they have truly earned your acclaim or if you are manipulating them.

Moreover, children can even be confused by excessive praise.

Example: you call your son a "genius." He thinks:


Self-esteem is built by realistic praise. Remember, children know when praise is not realistic.

  • "Does anyone else feel that way about me?"
  • "It’s too much work to be a genius."
  • "She knows I’m not a genius."

Example:  your unrealistic praise is way out of line. Your child knows he is not that good. He wonders what you want or discounts much of your praise as being ridiculous.

Example: to cheer your daughter on, you don’t mention the difficulties (or much of the truth) about her performance in soccer. She does not make the team and is crushed out of proportion primarily because you told her there was nothing to making the team.

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If you want to be accurate as well as being complimentary, practice these steps:

1. Explain that your child has done well and can do even better next time.

2. Don’t answer a statement of dissatisfaction with praise. Instead, acknowledge the feelings shown and help your child plan for a better performance next time.

Remember that the best praise for your children is praising their own judgement.

Of course, that can’t always happen. Sometimes their judgment, or society’s judgment as mirrored in their eyes, is not the best action or accomplishment  to praise.

Example: your six-year-old daughter spends much too much time in front of a mirror. She’s cute. You know it and she knows it. However, the mirror needs a rest and your daughter certainly needs to know there is more to life than appearance. Yet your daughter and  all children need to know their looks are acceptable.

So what do you say when you find your daughter staring away at her reflection?

Try saying, "You look nice today, Letha, but I am really proud of your gymnastics (drawing, etc.) this morning. How did you do that so well?"


1-2-3 Magic, Training Your Child to Do What You Want, by Thomas Phelan

If this excellent form of discipline appeals to you, get the whole story by buying the publication. Phelan’s book, 1-2-3 Magic, Training Your Child to Do What You Want. In addition to very thorough coverage of his counting method for time-out, Phelan also includes a section for teachers, a section for more serious stop-behaviors, such as lying, stealing, or playing with fire, and a section for start-behavior tactics.

This book is a must-read for parents of children aged two up to early teens.
I personally enjoyed the cassette version since it allowed me to listen and drive–a good use of precious time for parents. Also allows couples to listen and discuss together.

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Buy Book
Buy Cassette
Buy Spanish Edition

If your child is nearing the teen years, you might want to invest in another good book by Thomas Phelan,  Surviving Your Adolescents.  Phelan has also written about self-esteem in  children and dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD). His combined knowledge allows him great insight into teens. In the book on adolescence, Dr. Phelan gives a step-by-step approach that helps end hassles while allowing parents and children to keep their self-respect. This book abounds with concrete solutions to life with a teen-ager.

It is also available in cassette for those of us who need to save time.

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