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8 Things To Remember When You Want To Praise Your Children

8 Things To Remember When You Want To Praise Your Children

Are you praising your child too much? Is there a risk that he or she might become a narcissist? According to some studies, this is what happens when parents tend to go overboard with their praise. Parents may think that they are building the child’s self-esteem but that is not borne out by the studies. But the right kind of praise can be powerful for motivating kids. Here are 8 things to keep in mind when you want to praise your kids so that they grow up with a healthy self-esteem.

“People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others.”- Brad Bushman (co-author of the above study).

1. Avoid general blanket statements of praise.

Telling your kid that she is a clever girl or that he has done a great job is risky. You need to be more specific. Focus on the effort she put into it. Your kid’s team may not have won the match but you were really impressed with the effort he put in. He played well and that was also because he practised a lot. It is better to say, “Your practice paid off because I saw you hitting that ball really hard.” This is much better than making a rather weak, “Pity your team lost.” This is focusing on the negative outcome and not making any reference to all the hard work and sweat.

2. Make sure the praise is sincere.

It was a difficult job and the kid did well so that deserves praise. If you praise the child for every little mundane task, then this is counterproductive and may not sound sincere. The danger here is that the child may not risk trying new challenges because she may fail and she may lose her champion status! There is another problem in that the child must always get the parent’s approval and this is very limiting.

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3. Don’t offer cash incentives.

Money may be a motivator but if the child grows up thinking that life is like the stock exchange, we are missing out on instilling values such as gains in self-esteem following success. Also, this could become expensive if cash is the only reward for doing well! A much better idea is to celebrate with a treat, outing or a special meal because you are also sharing in the success. It is the hard work and persistence we want to reward, rather than making easy cash.

4. Don’t overdo the child’s talents.

Praising a child’s good looks, intelligence or artistic ability on a regular basis is really overdoing it. If the child always hears “You’re a born musician”, then he or she assumes that not much effort is needed to improve. The child may also tune it out because it has been repeated too often. It becomes meaningless.

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5. Praise must be geared towards new objectives.

The aim of praise is to encourage and motivate towards achieving new goals and milestones. One of the best ways of doing this is to mark steps in progress. You can say, “You’ve really improved in Math since last semester. You should be proud of that.” You can then remind your kid of the next hurdle which may be another test or exam.

6. Stop showing off about your child.

If your child hears you bragging about his or her achievements (Isn’t Maria the best speller you’ve ever seen?”), it puts unnecessary pressure on your kid to be always the best, always at the top of the class. That can be negative and also creates an over competitive environment among children. Inevitably, they will sometimes fail or do less well and that may have a negative effect on their motivation. In addition, the child is lulled into a false sense of security which defeats the learning benefits of praise.

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7. Use body language when appropriate.

Often, verbal praise may be inappropriate and may interrupt some activities. Giving kids a thumbs up while they are picking up is much better because you are not going to interrupt the job. When a child is concentrating on her reading and being really absorbed, you can pat her on the back or give her a gentle hug.

8. Don’t use sarcasm.

If you use sarcastic remarks which are supposed to be praise, they are pretty useless. First, the child does not understand sarcasm and may also resent the fact that you are harping on about his or her previous failings or unsuccessful efforts. Instead of saying, “Finally, you have learned to swim without the arm bands,” you should say “I bet you can’t wait to show your friends that you can now swim.” Always concentrate on the achievement and celebrate it with an appropriate remark. This is much better than reminding them of their past errors or failures.

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As we have seen, making praise constructive is the key. Keep focusing on the effort and commitment your kids show. They will grow up much more independent and resourceful and also have a healthy self-esteem.

Featured photo credit: Nate swimming/Mike Young via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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