As a parent, you want your children to feel successful. Even more than that, you want your children to feel confident about who they are and who they can become. In your effort to promote healthy growth in your children, you may feel confused or overwhelmed about what to do. There is so much parenting advice out there and so many sources claiming to have all the answers regarding how to nurture healthy self-esteem and instill positive values. Fortunately, there are simple tips you can follow when complimenting your kids that will promote positive growth.
Reward Effort, Not Outcomes
Some kids express clear talents from an early age. They may have an ear for music, a head for numbers, or a passion for the arts. Other children’s gifts, however, are not as readily apparent, and they take time to discover and cultivate. As a result, it’s important to reward your children for their efforts and not for the outcome of their actions. If you focus too much on results, kids with a special talent will learn to coast and not push themselves. Children who are still developing their talents will worry that they can never measure up to their peers.
Focusing on results sets kids up for a mindset of comparing themselves to others. They will learn that as long as they are performing better than the people or children around them, they don’t need to continue learning or growing. This mindset treats learning like an undesirable activity instead of a playful adventure. Since children naturally love to learn, it takes adult interference and over-emphasis on performance to dull their curiosity.
Complimenting your children’s efforts instead of their performance will keep them engaged in the learning process and will ensure that they stay in a growth mindset. Children become less likely to judge each other or themselves when they make a mistake or don’t perform well. Kids with a growth mindset will look for ways to challenge themselves and improve for next time without the pressure to perform.
Make Rewards Experiential, Not Material
As a busy parent, it may be tempting to buy your child a toy or reward him or her with some other material gift if he or she does something exceptional. A better alternative to using materialistic rewards is to reward your child with new experiences. Giving many material rewards keeps children in a materialistic mindset and sets them up to believe that getting new “stuff” is what life is all about.
If you instead provide new experiences as a reward for good behavior, you will keep your children focused on a growth mindset. Experiences also provide children with an opportunity to interact with their parents, siblings, and friends. These shared experiences help cultivate joyful relationships and provide happy memories that will last a lifetime. Children learn that relationships and experiences are far more important than obtaining material possessions. They also learn that if they do well, they will be presented with even more opportunities to learn and grow. As a result, learning itself becomes a reward. Children who see learning as a reward are far more likely to learn on their own and pursue higher levels of education. They know that no material possession can match the feeling of excitement they experience when mastering a new skill or concept and sharing it with the people they love.
With our culture’s emphasis on material success, children need help navigating outside these shallow cultural values. Rewarding them materially will only reinforce the cultural message that “having lots of stuff” is what makes life valuable. In order to set kids up on a more authentic path of self-discovery, choose your words of praise wisely. Highlight your children’s efforts and show them that learning is a better reward than anything money can buy. That way, they will become confident adults who are eager to contribute to the world and to share their love of learning with generations to come.